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Ofcom finds that people in the UK use tablets and watch telly

UK communications watchdog turns over a stone
Thu Aug 01 2013, 10:58
AATV television

UK COMMUNICATIONS REGULATOR Ofcom has conducted a study of how people use smartphones and tablets and found that they do so at the same time that they do other things.

Ofcom said there is a dizzying array of things that are competing for our attention, and that the hardware is winning.

It said that a plethora of gadgetry has turned us all into solid multitaskers and our lounge sofas into "digital media hubs".

Over 90 percent of us sit in front of a traditional television, and 51 percent of those own a smartphone, just under double the amount that did two years ago. The average house now has three kinds of internet enabled something, while one in five homes has six or more.

We've only just got the hang of multi-tasking, but apparently we are taking it too far. Ofcom said that people do something called "Media Meshing", which sees them watching one thing on a telly and something else to do with what they are watching on a smartphone.

The example given is one where you might watch a sporting event and follow its hashtag on Twitter.

Younger people, naturally, were found to be "most likely" to use other media while watching TV, and women are more likely to "media multi-task" than men.

"Our research shows that increasingly families are gathering in the living room to watch TV just as they were in the 1950s - but now delivered on bigger, wider and more sophisticated sets. Unlike the 1950s family, however, they are also doing their own thing. They are tweeting about a TV show, surfing the net or watching different content altogether on a tablet," said James Thickett, Ofcom director of Research.

"Just a few years ago, we would be talking about last night's TV at work or at school. Now, we're having those conversations live while watching TV - using social media, text and instant messaging."

Tablets are helping drag eyes away from the television, and Ofcom said that nine percent of houses have at least one of the gadgets. Where they are in use, tablets are actively in hands for as long as an hour and a quarter per day.

Over half, 56 percent, use the tablet for watching "audiovisual content" and the same amount have downloaded at least one telly app, such as the BBC iPlayer. One in five young adults watch telly on a tablet while on the toilet.

It is not just young adults either, and the very young are also being nestled in the blanket of surrounding hardware. Three-quarters of parents use a tablet device to keep their children occupied and the same percentage said that it is a useful distraction magnet and educational tool.

Playing games, and we know how that sometimes ends, is the child's' preferred tablet pastime, and 71 percent of them are indulging themselves there. Just 28 percent use it for school or work purposes.

Back to teens and we find them so entrenched in the internet that one in five start a relationship over text, email or social networking websites, and 30 percent like a good old text-based argument.

Fortunately all of this is backed up by increasingly fast network connections. Ofcom found that "superfast" broadband of over 30Mbps is now available to around 75 percent of UK premises. µ


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