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59% of us are hooked on our internet devices, Ofcom says

Published 04/08/2016

The majority of people say they cannot pull away from their connected devices, a survey says
The majority of people say they cannot pull away from their connected devices, a survey says

A third of UK internet users have undertaken a "digital detox" with well over half saying they are "hooked" on their connected devices, according to an Ofcom report.

Some 15 million people, or 34% of all internet users, have taken between a day and a month away from the web to strike a healthier balance between technology and life beyond a screen, the survey of 2,025 adults and 500 teenagers found.

Most (59%) consider themselves to be "hooked" on their connected device and a third (34%) say they find it difficult to disconnect.

The study reveals how reliance on the internet is affecting people's personal and working lives, leading many to seek time away, the regulator's Communications Market Report said.

Adult users in the UK currently spend an average of one day a week - 25 hours - online, 42% say they go online or check apps more than 10 times a day and around one in 10 (11%) access the internet more than 50 times a day.

Nearly half of all users (49%) said they spent longer online each day than they intended to, and as a result 48% neglected housework, 47% missed out on sleep or were tired the next day and 31% missed out on time with friends and family.

A quarter of teenagers (26%) had been late for school and 60% said they had neglected school work, but 61% said their parents had taken their device away or restricted their time on it.

A quarter of adults have sent a text or instant message to friends or family while in the same room.

But a quarter of adults also complained that someone bumped into them in the street at least once a week because they were looking at their phones, and 40% felt a friend or relative had ignored them at least once a week because they were too engrossed in their device.

Of those who had taken time away from the internet, 25% left it for up to a day, 20% took up to a week and 5% took up to a month away, with most (44%) saying they wanted more time to do other things and 38% needing more time to talk to friends and family.

However, while 33% felt more productive as a result, 27% found it liberating and 25% enjoyed life more, 16% experienced a "fear of missing out", 15% felt lost and 14% felt "cut-off".

Almost a third of UK holiday-goers (30%) have purposely abandoned technology, with 16% choosing a destination with no internet access and 9% travelled to a place with no internet or phone coverage.

Jane Rumble, director of market intelligence at Ofcom, said: "The internet has revolutionised our lives for the better. But our love affair with the web isn't always plain surfing, and many people admit to feeling hooked.

"So millions of us are taking a fresh look at the role of technology in our lives, and going on a digital detox to get a better tech-life balance."

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