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Society is so digital, we do more with devices than with each other

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Talking of how fast things change, here are a few Friday facts to make you smile (or feel ill).

The UK Office of Communications (Ofcom) run regular surveys on our digital lifestyles.

This year the impact of smartphone and tablet computing hits the radar and shows how things have changed fast.

For example, this year’s survey finds that that the average UK adult now spends more time using media or communications (8 hours 41 minutes) than they do sleeping (8 hours 21 minutes - the UK average).


But because we're squeezing more into our day, by multi-tasking on different devices, the total use of media and communications averaged over 11 hours every day in 2014, an increase of more than 2 hours since the last research of a similar nature in 2010.

Among the adult population, it's the 16-24s who spend the most time on media and communications. They're cramming over 14 hours of media and communications activity into 9 hours 8 minutes each day by multi-tasking, using different media and devices at the same time.

Move to smartphones

Where computer use was traditionally dependent on desktop computers, tablet and smartphone devices are starting to dominate how we work and play. Over four in 10 households (44%) now have a tablet - up from a quarter (24%) a year ago.

Young adults are particularly glued to their smartphones, using them for 3 hours 36 minutes each day which is almost three times the 1 hour 22 minutes average across all adults.

This is why more than half of children aged 6-15 claim to use and know a lot about smartphone and tablet apps, with only 3% having never heard of them. Snapchat is particularly popular, with 18% of children claiming to have used the app and a further 11% knowing a lot about it.

More than 90% of the device time of these young adults is message based, chatting on social networks like Facebook, or sending instant messages through services like WhatsApp, or even firing off traditional mobile phone text messages. Just 2% of children's time use is spent emailing – compared to 33% for adults. But 10% of children's device time is spent sending video and photo messages, sharing or commenting on photos via services like Snapchat, or circulating 15 second videos over Instagram's sister app Vine.

Generational gaps

Unsurprisingly, kids are therefore far more comfortable than the over 50s with tech. 

Six year olds who have grown up with YouTube, Spotify and the BBC iPlayer, have an average DQ (digital quotient) score of 98, higher than for those aged between 45-49, who scored an average of 96.

Digital understanding peaks between 14 and 15, with a DQ of 113 – and then drops gradually throughout adulthood, before falling rapidly in old age.


The most digitally proficient 12-15s are equally turning away from talking on the telephone. Just 3% of their communications time is spent making voice calls, while the vast majority (94%) is text based - such as instant messaging and social networking.

By contrast, older generations still find it good to talk: 20% of UK adults' communications time is spent on the phone on average. While adults also embrace digital text-based communications, the traditional email is most popular (used for 33% of their time spent communicating) compared to emails being used by just 2% among 12-15s.

I think I must be an exception to their rule.


[you can try out a version of the survey that will you your DQ score]

The shocker here is that the internet and all this tech stuff didn’t exist as such in the lives of consumers, just twenty years ago.

11th August 1994 was the first time a commercial internet transaction took place.

This was the first “secure online purchase” of a “Ten Summoner’s Tales” album by Sting, for $12.48 plus shipping.

Twenty years later, over $1.5 trillion of internet-based shopping takes place via mobile, tablet and PC, with a about a third via mobiles up from virtually none a decade ago.

Surprisingly, Asia is the leading digital shopping region, with Europe a close second and America third.


The real core here is that six year olds are growing up with smartphones and tablets, but have no idea who Steve Jobs is.

14 year olds, born in 2000, wonder why old folks sit at desktops.

35 year olds question why everything is not digital as they are.

And 50 years olds wonder why their bank’s legacy systems are celebrating the same birthday as they are.


Chris Skinner Author Avatar

Chris M Skinner

Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog,, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal's Financial News. To learn more click here...

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