Adults’ Media Use and Attitudes Report 2014

Published 29|04|14

Executive summary

Our Adults' Media Use and Attitudes Report provides detailed evidence on media use, attitudes and understanding among UK adults aged 16+. It covers TV, radio, mobile, games, and the internet, with a particular focus on the latter.

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 and their families from the potential risks associated with using these services.

Key themes from this year's report include:

  • There has been growth in take-up and use by older people, across a range of devices
  • There has been growth in a range of online activities, particularly across communication and entertainment activities
  • User-generated content is an information source for users, although online users are more likely to receive than to contribute content
  • Privacy and security attitudes and behaviour continue to vary considerably by age group
  • Among those with app-enabled devices, apps are more popular than browsers for some online activities

More UK adults, especially older adults, are now going online, using a range of devices

Over eight in ten (83%) of adults now go online using any type of device in any location. Nearly all 16-24s and 25-34s are now online (98%), and there has been a nine percentage point increase in those aged 65+ ever going online (42% vs. 33% in 2012).

The number of adults using tablets to go online has almost doubled; from 16% in 2012 to 30% in 2013. While almost all age-groups are more likely than previously to use tablets in this way, use by those aged 35-64 has doubled, while use by 65-74s has trebled; from 5% to 17%.

Six in ten UK adults (62%) now use a smartphone, an increase from 54% in 2012. This increase is driven by 25-34s and 45-54s, and those aged 65-74 are almost twice as likely to use a smartphone now compared to 2012 (20% vs. 12%).

The range of mobile activities has increased, particularly among 25-34s and 45-54s

These increases in take-up of mobile devices mirror an increase in the range of mobile activities that people are doing, many of which are communication- and entertainment-based. Over half (55%) of mobile users ever send / receive emails on mobile, and use their mobile to visit social networking sites or apps. Four in ten mobile users have ever used mobile phones to put photos or videos on sites like YouTube, while the same number (38%) use their phone for instant messaging. Almost three in ten ever use services like Skype or FaceTime on mobile phones.

One third of mobile users now say they buy things via their phone (33% vs. 23% in 2012) or use their phone to check their bank balance (34% vs. 25% in 2012).

TV continues to be the most-missed media activity

Watching television remains the most-missed media activity among adults in 2013, (although, since 2009, this is missed by a minority: 42% of adults), followed by using a smartphone (22%) and going online via a PC/ laptop/ netbook (15%).

However, this varies considerably by age group, with only 13% of 16-24s nominating TV, compared to around one third of 25-44s, and nearly seven in ten of people aged 65+. The device that most 16-34s say they would most miss using is a smartphone (47% for 16-24s and 36% for 25-34s).

Just over half (54%) of online users say they watch TV programmes online, on any device; this has not increased since 2012. This rises to seven in ten 16-24s (71%). One in five (22%) of mobile phone users have ever watched a TV programme on a mobile phone, with one in eight (13%) doing so at least quarterly.

Gaming has grown in popularity, driven by older age-groups and mobile phones

Four in ten (42%) UK adults now play games on any device, compared to 35% in 2012. Playing games on a mobile has increased (19% vs. 13%), as has playing games on a tablet (10% vs. 5%). In both cases, these increases are driven by 25-34s (13pp for mobiles and 9pp for tablets), those aged 45-54 (9pp and 7pp) and those aged 55-64s (5pp and 4pp).

Compared to 2012, those aged 45-54 are twice as likely to play games over the internet (18% vs. 9%). Playing games on a mobile phone (either games loaded on the phone or those that require you to go online) has also increased by seven percentage points for internet users (46% vs. 39% in 2012). This increase is most notable for those aged 16-24 (82% vs. 71% in 2012) and 45-54s (42% vs. 31% in 2012).

A range of social networking sites are being used, although Facebook remains the default service

Two-thirds (66%) of online adults say they have a current social networking site profile, unchanged since 2012 (64%). Nearly all with a current profile (96%) have one on Facebook, although the incidence of having only a Facebook profile has fallen to 43% in 2013 compared to 53% in 2012. Three in ten social networkers say they have a Twitter profile, and one in five say they have a YouTube (22%) or WhatsApp profile (20%). Social networking overall remains a popular pastime, with 60% of users visiting sites more than once a day, an increase from 50% in 2012, and with 83% of 16-24s doing so (69% in 2012).

Twitter users are the most likely to say they follow friends (72%) and then celebrities (45%) and news (also 45%), followed by hobbies and interests (33%). On average, Twitter users say they follow 146 people or organisations, and have 97 followers.

Government processes are carried out online by six in ten online users

Six in ten online users (61%) say they complete government processes online, which is unchanged since 2012. One in eight (13%) say they contact their local councillor or MP online, which is also unchanged since 2012. But there has been a decrease in the frequency of completing government processes online at least quarterly from 33% in 2012 to 28% in 2013. 

However, since 2012 there has been a rise in the numbers of people saying they prefer to use email or websites to complete government processes, out of a range of possible types of communication - from 43% in 2012 to 48% in 2013. Those that complete government services online say that it's convenient (84%) and quicker than doing it in person (40%).

User-generated content (UGC) is an information source for online users, although people are more likely to be users than contributors

Ninety-eight per cent of online adults say they use search engines, 59% say they use YouTube for information, and half (51%) use Wikipedia or online recommendations from friends. Four in ten (44%) use user reviews and 38% use closed Facebook groups. Young people aged 16-24 are more likely to use YouTube (75%) and closed Facebook groups (55%) than are all online adults.

Among internet users, search engines are the most important information source (93%), followed by online recommendations (39%) and user reviews (36%). Personal user reviews are rated as more important than reviews by critics or journalists in the wider media (25%).

However, among those who use online review sites, far fewer write reviews than read them. Fifty-six per cent of people who buy things online say they often read user reviews compared to one in ten (11%) who often write them.

Apps are more popular than browsers for various activities

Just under half of mobile phone users (48%) say they download apps on their mobile phone (up from 37% in 2012). Smartphone users have an average of 23 apps on their phones, of which they say they use ten regularly.

There is a clear preference for using apps rather than browsers for gaming and for downloading videos and music, and half of app users who look at news said they prefer to use an app (50% vs. 36% who prefer a browser). However, app users prefer to use browsers for shopping online and for looking for information (50% and 62% respectively).

Two in ten app users have concerns about apps, compared to half (51%) of internet users who have concerns about content on the internet, and just over a third (36%) of TV viewers who have concerns about content on TV.

Attitudes to being online vary by age and online experience

Experiences and attitudes towards being online vary by age group. Younger users are likely to take a more liberal approach to regulation and moderation, and employ a range of strategies to manage their online experience proactively, while older users appear to prefer a more moderated and regulated experience. Attitudes about the desirability of online protection have changed little over time, and a desire for online freedom exists alongside participants' interest in protection.

For example, 44% of internet users agree with the statement: "I should be free to say and do as I want online", while 82% agree that "internet users must be protected from inappropriate or offensive content", a figure which has barely changed since 2005.

Younger users are more likely to agree that they should be free to say what they like online (six in ten (59%) of 16-24s compared to 25% of those aged 65+), although there is no difference by age in terms of agreement about the need for protection.

Related to this, when asked: "Is the internet regulated in terms of what can be shown or written?" almost half (47%) of internet users said that it is regulated, with those aged 45-54 significantly more likely to say this (58%). One in four adults don't know if the internet is regulated, and those aged 16-24 are significantly more likely to say they don't know (35%).

With regard to protecting their identity and personal information online, younger users (aged 16-24) demonstrate a proactive approach to managing their social media experience. Compared to all users, they are more likely to have made their privacy settings on Facebook more private (76% vs. 65% for all users). Social networking site users aged 16-24 are also more likely than all users to block friends (49% vs. 36%) and delete photos that they have posted (32% vs. 22%).

Younger users (aged 16-24) seem aware of how to protect their identity in these ways, and are more likely to agree that they give out inaccurate or false information online to protect their personal identity (34% vs. 26% for all internet users). However, they are also more likely to say they are happy to provide personal information online to companies as long as they get what they want in return (55% versus 42% for all internet users), suggesting some inconsistency in their approach to managing personal information.

Age and gender influence security and safety behaviours and experiences

Differences by age group and gender suggest that depth and breadth of internet use, as well as experience and attitude to risk, may influence people's online safety and security behaviour.

Those aged 65+ are less likely than all internet users to use some online, and most mobile, security features; however, they are also less likely to report having negative online experiences.

In contrast, 79% of those aged 16-24s who go online through a PC/ laptop or netbook use anti-virus software, but are more likely than all adults to say they have experienced a computer virus in the past 12 months (28% vs. 20%). Similarly, almost half of 16-24s use email filters, and again, are more likely than all adults to experience emails being sent without their consent (17% vs. 11%).


Compared to 2012, there are fewer non-users of the internet now, with 12% saying that they don't have access to the internet at home and don't intend to get the internet at home in the next 12 months. In 2012 the proportion was 15%.

While one in ten of those aged 16-44 do not have access at home, around one in three intend to get it in the next 12 months. In contrast, almost all of those aged 55+ who don't have access to the internet at home (20% for 55-64s, 37% for 65-74s and 65% for over-75s) do not intend to get it in the next 12 months (15%, 30% and 59% respectively).

In 2013 over a quarter of non-users made proxy use of the internet. This represents a nine percentage point increase: to 27% from 18% in 2012.