Levels of concern about the internet have fallen substantially in the UK over the past six years, however some users are still willing to take risks over their internet security and privacy settings, new research by Ofcom reveals.
UK adults’ concerns about the internet have dropped steadily since 2005, falling from seven in ten (70 per cent) users to half (50 per cent) by 2011, with confidence online at high levels (84 per cent), according to Ofcom’s Adults Media Use and Attitudes report. The report is designed to give an accessible overview of media literacy among UK adults aged 16 and over, and its purpose is to support people working in this area to develop and promote media literacy among these groups.
The fall in concern comes as people are spending increasing amounts of time on the internet. The average user now says they are online for over 15 hours each week, an increase of five hours since 2005. The internet is increasingly part of people’s everyday lives wherever they are, and eight in ten adults (79%) now go online on any device in any location – up by 20 percentage points compared to 2005.
Social networking continues to grow in popularity and three fifths of adult internet users (59 per cent) say they now have a profile on a social networking site. However, the increase has slowed, with a rise of five percentage points since 2010, compared to increases of ten percentage points in 2010 and 22 percentage points in 2009.
For those with a profile, social networking is increasingly becoming a part of their daily lives, with two-thirds (67 per cent) saying they visited the sites every day – up from one-third (30 per cent) in 2007. Accessing social media on a weekly basis via a mobile phone has almost doubled in the last year – from 15 per cent in 2010 to 29 per cent in 2011. Amongst smartphone users this increase is even greater, up from 39 per cent in 2010 to 55 per cent in 2011.
However, while internet usage and social networking is becoming commonplace some users are still willing to take risks online. A quarter of social networkers (26 per cent) in the UK say their personal information, such as their date of birth or hometown, can potentially be seen by people they do not know.
Furthermore, about one in six users (16 per cent) of social networking sites say they share their contact details with anyone or friends of friends. Three in five (61 per cent) only allow their friends to view their contact details, and a further 13 per cent say they don’t have this information on their profile.
This report is the fifth full report since the Ofcom survey began in 2005. Ofcom has a statutory duty to promote media literacy. Media literacy enables people to have the skills, knowledge and understanding they need to make full use of the opportunities presented both by traditional and by new communications services. Media literacy also helps people to manage content and communications, and protect themselves from the potential risks associated with using these services. The core focus of Ofcom´s research work in this area is to understand the usage habits of UK adults, and their attitudes across TV, radio, internet, mobile phones and games.