The Independent, 15 October 2009

The number of adults using social networking sites has nearly doubled in two years, research suggested today.

Women are more likely than men to use the sites – and nine out of ten users say they have a profile on Facebook.

Ofcom‘s UK Adults’ Media Literacy interim report also found the number of internet users aged 65 and over had increased sharply since 2007, from 26 per cent to 41 per cent.

The study found internet users with a profile on a social networking site had jumped from 22 per cent to 38 per cent since 2007. Some 41 per cent visit the sites daily, compared to 30 per cent two years ago. But while the popularity has increased, more people are selective about who can view their profile.

The study showed 76 per cent restrict access to family and friends – up from 48 per cent in 2007. The research showed 42 per cent of women were likely to have a social networking site profile, compared to 34 per cent of men. And 39 per cent of women used the internet at least weekly for social networking, compared to 28 per cent of men.
Facebook was the most popular site among social networkers, with 89 per cent adding their profile to it, up from 62 per cent in 2007.
Just under half (49 per cent) of men surveyed said they used the internet for news, while 35 per cent used it for sports updates and 39 per cent to pass time. In comparison, 30 per cent of women used it for news, 6 per cent for sports news and 30 per cent to pass time.

One in three adults (29 per cent) who use the internet watched online or downloaded television programmes or films, with 25 to 34-year-olds most likely to do this.

As well as increasing usage in older age groups, 51 per cent of people from low income households now use the web, up from 35 per cent in 2007.

But the level remains lower than the overall figure for adults using the internet, which stands at 73 per cent.

The growing influence of the internet was also reflected in an increase in the number of people who selected it as the media form they would miss the most. While most people (51 per cent) nominated television, more adults listed the internet, up from 12 per cent in 2007 to 15 per cent.

Other themes revealed in the report showed take-up of digital televisions now stood at 89 per cent, up from 82 per cent in 2007, and personal mobile phone usage had risen from 85 per cent to 91 per cent.

* The survey involved 812 in-home interviews with adults aged 16 and over from April to May.