Switch off – it’s time for a digital detox
Digital detoxers ditch their devices – Ofcom. Is an obsession with smartphones, iPads and ‘screen time’ harming our children and us? Help is at hand…
Fifteen million UK internet users have undertaken a ‘digital detox’ in a bid to strike a healthier balance between technology and life beyond the screen, according to major new Ofcom research.
The study of 2,025 adults and 500 teenagers reveals how our reliance on the internet is affecting people’s personal and working lives, leading many to seek time away from the web to spend time with friends and family.
Ofcom’s Communications Market Report 2016 finds that one in three adult internet users (34%), equivalent to 15 million people in the UK, has sought a period of time offline, with one in ten (11%) doing so in the last week alone.
Of these digital down-timers, 25% spent up to a day internet-free; 20% took up to a week off; and 5% went web-free for up to a whole month.
The most common reasons for taking a ‘tech timeout’ were to spend more time doing other things (cited by 44%) and more time talking to friends and family (38%).
Many people found their time offline to be a positive experience: a third (33%) said they felt more productive, 27% found it liberating, while a quarter (25%) enjoyed life more. However, 16% experienced a ‘fear of missing out’ (‘FOMO’) while on the web wagon, 15% felt lost and 14% ‘cut-off’.
Millions of holiday-goers are purposely abandoning technology. Thirty percent of UK adults have done some form of digital detox holiday. Sixteen per cent of UK adults have purposely visited a destination with no internet access, while 9% have intentionally travelled to a place with neither internet nor mobile phone coverage.
As a result of the internet’s importance in many people’s daily lives, adult users in the UK currently spend an average of one day per week (25 hours) online; 42% say they go online or check apps more than 10 times a day, while around one in 10 (11%) access the internet more than 50 times daily.
Most internet users (59%) even consider themselves ‘hooked’ on their connected device – while a third (34%) admit they find it difficult to disconnect.
Many people are, however, facing up to the consequences of spending too much time online, and recognising how this can affect their work and personal lives.
Nearly half of internet users (49%) said they were guilty of ‘connectivity creep’ – spending longer online than they originally intended each day, while 37% said the same of social media.
As a result, almost half (48%) neglected housework; 47% said they had missed out on sleep or were tired the next day; while 31% had missed out on spending time with friends and family.
‘Tech tardiness’ was another reported side effect. One in five users (22%) admitted being late for a meeting with friends or family, and 13% late for work, as a result of being online too long. One quarter of teens (26%) had been late for school, while six in 10 teenagers (60%) said they’d neglected school work.
Perhaps as a consequence, many parents are limiting their children’s time online. Six out of 10 (61%) teenagers who use a connected device such as a smartphone or tablet reported being digitally ‘grounded’, having had their device taken away, or its usage restricted.
People also reported a lack of ‘netiquette’ from strangers who can’t seem to put their devices down. A quarter of UK adults (25%) complained that someone bumped into them in the street at least once a week because they were too busy looking at their phone.
Our attachment to our connected devices is also getting in the way of face-to-face communication, according to the research.
Four in 10 UK adults (40%) felt they’d been ‘smart-snubbed’ (ignored by a friend or relative too engrossed in their smartphone or tablet) at least once a week; while 17% said this happened on a daily basis.
The research also suggests some people are choosing to text or instant message friends and family instead of talking face-to-face, even though they’re sitting in the same room. Just over a quarter of UK adults (26%) said this occurred at home, while a third of teenagers (32%) have done so at school.
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.”
Ofcom’s Communications Market Report 2016 is a comprehensive annual study of the UK’s internet, telecoms, broadcasting and postal sectors. The report acts as a reference for industry and consumers, and provides context and evidence for Ofcom’s work in making communications services work for everyone.