Britons spent more time online than other Europeans during the pandemic, the communications regulator Ofcom has found.
When physical contact was restricted and lockdowns came into force, the UK flocked to apps, websites and devices.
In 2020, Britons spent on average 3.5 hours a day consuming online content, while France and Germany averaged two hours a day.
Ofcom have analysed our habits in their annual report into the UK’s online migration.
The past 18 months has propelled its direction of travel.
“There’s no question in my mind that the pandemic has accelerated the trend we were already seeing,” said Ofcom’s Director of Strategy and Research, Yih-Choung Teh.
“We were already embracing all sorts of online activities, but of course when restaurants are closed it’s no wonder we all started ordering takeaways online in our millions.”
Online retail was a big winner of lockdown with shopping sales rising by half and our total spend coming to nearly £113 billion in 2020.
The most money was spent on food and drink, whilst household goods also surged as lockdown gave us time for home renovations.
With the lack of face to face contact, social media platforms perhaps inevitably, saw a significant rise in users.
As physical dating became nearly impossible, many more were swiping right too. One in five young adults used online dating services last year.
Young adults are described in the report as ‘heavy users of social video platforms’ with YouTube and TikTok proving the most popular platforms. Ninety-five percent of 15 year olds now report having at least one social media account.
The findings may be used to shape future policy on the regulation of social media platforms.
Speaking to Sky News, Yih-Choung Teh said the long-lasting impact of this many hours of online consumption is still unknown: “I think it’s interesting to think about what sort of lasting legacy will be left with us after lockdown.
“As the regulator, we have greater responsibilities coming our way as the government has put forward a draft Online Safety Bill to help keep people safe online as they enjoy the benefits.
“That’s a really important part of this research for us, to understand how do we help protect people, particularly children online.”
The draft Online Safety Bill is currently subject to pre-legislative scrutiny by a joint committee of MPs before it proceeds to the next stage.
It is proposing to safeguard children and young people from harmful content online.
In a year that forced us to accelerate our online habits – many have reaped the benefits and enjoyed the virtual sphere, but weaning off some generations from the digital world may be difficult.