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Among other things Britons favor being online to sleeping

This space has usually been dedicated to bringing you timely news stories and exposés. We thought we would take a break from that to print an article of interest about some current tendencies among British tech users. Some of the findings may surprise you.

The study, conducted by communications regulator Ofcom, is rather enlightening. For example, they point out that for the first time average UK adults are now spending more time using tech gadgets than they do sleeping. That’s right. According to the research folks are using tech media or communications for eight hours and 41 minutes a day while sleeping eight hours and 21 minutes. The combined time spent using technology is actually greater-11 hours, 7 minutes- but this takes into account multi-tasking, that is watching TV while texting and so forth.

The results are good news for the tech industry which has bet heavy that the use of tech gadgets will continue to grow. Not all industries will be happy with the results, though. Television outlets and industries have to be concerned about a trend showing that fewer hours are being spent in front of the tube as both young and old flock to whatever the tech industry serves up.

The data also reveals some quite startling information. Britons are reaching their peak of understanding of digital technology at the age of 14 to 15. And 6 year-olds have the same understanding of gadgets such as mobile phones and tablets as 45 year-olds. Moreover, the use of mobile phones with young users is focused on texting (94%)-instant messaging or using social networking sites. Adults, on the other hand, are spending a fifth of their time making calls with their mobile devices.

This information gives Jane Rumble, head of media research and intelligence at Ofcom, pause for reflection. She said the data brings into “question whether the millennium generation is losing its voice”. Or it may just be that children will make more voice calls as they get older. Should be interesting to find out.

Usage of tablets is up in households, too, with a nearly doubling in number to 44% ownership in households compared to 24% last year. The rise in use among older citizens is more dramatic. Two years ago only 2% of those over age 65 used tablets. Today that number is up to 22%. Smartphone ownership, predictably, is growing also. Over the past year 61% of those surveyed own one-up from half a year ago. But 16-24 year-olds have cornered the market on usage with 88%. Britons aged 65 or over own only 14% of smartphones.

As mentioned, all this increase in usage of tech devices has caused a drop-off, however slight, in TV viewing. Viewing time has dropped for the first time to under 4 hours a day. And many folks text and send emails while watching television and during commercial breaks. This is bound to have an effect on advertisers and ad prices going forward. Some good news for users is that the cost of this technology is declining, reflected in the cost of devices and the monthly subscriber outlays. One outcome is that now 82% of people report having internet connection.

The survey is useful in quantifying quality of life improvements as well. Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards said: “The convenience and simplicity of smartphones and tablets are helping us cram more activities into our daily lives.” Those who would say that technology improves their work-life balance are 50% greater than those who say it does not. But caveat to employers: 60% of those surveyed admit that they send personal texts during work time!

Those who favour traditional forms of media shouldn’t fret too much. People still own more books than CDs and DVDs, for example though the average number of books owned fell from 89 to 86 per person. It would have been interesting to learn about the popularity of e-reading devices and how they might be encroaching on the typical paper book. Oh well, maybe next time. Suffice to say, one would be hard pressed to think that society is not better off with the advances in technology. I, for one, look to the future with much anticipation. How about you?


Stan Ward Stan Ward has enjoyed writing for 50 years. Writing has been a comfortable companion to a successful business and teaching career for him. Find him on Google+.

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