February 28 2013.

Key points:
• In 2012, 33 million adults accessed the Internet every day, more than double the 2006 figure of 16 million, when directly comparable records began.

• Approximately 87% of adults aged between 16 and 24, used social networking sites in 2012, compared to 48% of all adults.

• Telephone or video calls over the Internet were made by 32% of adults in 2012, double the 2009 estimate of 16%, and four times higher than the 2007 estimate of 8%.

• Access to the Internet using a mobile phone more than doubled between 2010 and 2012, from 24% to 51%.

• In 2012, 32% of adults accessed the Internet using a mobile phone every day.

The Internet has changed the way people go about their daily lives. Almost half of British adults accessed news via the Internet in 2012, while increasing numbers are using the Internet to watch TV or listen to the radio. Activities that were previously only available on the high street are now possible using the Internet. For example, in 2012 almost half of all adults banked online and two thirds shopped over the Internet.

Latest esearch reveals that adults aged 25 to 44 used the Internet more than any other age group to carry out a wide range of established 'every day' activities, such as personal banking; reading the news; buying groceries, household goods and clothes. However, for new activities such as social networking, which did not exist prior to the creation of the Internet, those aged 16 to 24 lead the way.

In the infancy of the Internet, the main way of access was via a personal computer. New ways of accessing the Internet have developed in recent years, with those adults aged 16 to 24 adopting these new technologies at a faster rate than any other age group, especially via the use of Internet enabled mobile phones.

The Office for National Statistics reports that 42 million people in Great Britain have used the Internet, representing approximately 85% of the adult population.

In 2012, 33 million adults in Great Britain used the Internet every day, or almost every day. This represented 68% of those aged 16 and over and was more than double the number of adults (16 million) that used the Internet daily in 2006 (when directly comparable records began).

A recent growth in social networking has been one of the largest changes to the way in which individuals communicate over the Internet. In 2012, almost half of all adults (48%) used social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Within the youngest age group (16 to 24), 87% used social networking as a form of Internet communication. For those aged 16 to 24, social networking has replaced sending or receiving emails (83%) as the most popular Internet activity. This is the first time that email use has not been identified as being the top performed activity in any age group since comparable records began. Social networking has broad appeal and, although its use declines as age increases, it is not exclusively limited to younger age groups. In 2012, 62% of adults aged 35 to 44, and 40% of adults aged 45 to 54 used social networks to communicate online. There is no difference in the use of social networking by men and woman, with 48% of both using social networking applications and websites.

This recent and large growth in social networking can partly be explained by increasingly mobile Internet use in Great Britain. In 2012, a third of all adults reported accessing social networking websites or applications via a mobile phone (or other handheld device such as a MP3 player, e-book reader or games console). Those aged 16 to 24 reported the highest use of mobile social networking with almost three-quarters (72%) of adults in this age-group reporting this form of access.

Using a slightly broader definition of social networking, in which 'posting messages to chat sites, blogs, newsgroups, discussion forums and the use of Instant Messaging (IM)' are included, Eurostat recently published estimates covering the period 2009 to 2012. Out of the 26 countries reported, all, with the exception of Germany, reported an increase in social networking over the period. In 2012, the UK was ranked fourth in respect of the proportion of adults who make use of social networking, behind Norway, Netherlands and Iceland.

Internet activities
There are distinct differences in how individuals make use of the Internet when analysed by age. As 'early-adopters', it is of little surprise that those adults aged 16 to 24 are proportionately the largest users of many of the available Internet activities. In 2012, this age group were most likely to engage in online activities that focused on leisure or recreation; especially new activities such as social networking (87%), posting messages to chat sites/forums/blogs (60%) or playing or downloading games/films/music (67%).

There is growing popularity among slightly older age groups; particularly those aged 25 to 34, to engage in online activities which are based on more 'established' activities such as personal banking or shopping. Previously, whereas people would have traditionally headed to the high street to shop, bank or send a letter, there are now new online ways of carrying out these activities via websites, or increasingly, mobile applications. Adults aged 25 to 34 reported the highest level of use in activities such as; online shopping (87%), use of email (87%), Internet banking (69%) and reading online news/newspapers (66%).

For most activities first surveyed in 2007 there has been a sizeable increase in use between 2007 and 2012. Of particular note, there has been a sizable increase in the proportion of adults making telephone or video calls over the Internet (e.g. Skype). From a slow uptake between 2007 (8%) and 2010 (18%), use has almost doubled over the past two years, to nearly a third of adults (32%) in 2012 now partaking in this activity.

93% of households with Internet access in Great Britain are connected via a broadband connection. As people demand faster Internet connections it is unsurprising that multimedia activities such as watching television or listening to web radio have increased in popularity, from 17% of adults in 2007 to 38% in 2012. This is likely to increase in the future as digital TV providers are increasingly offering more downloadable content via the Internet.

Internet shopping
The convenience of Internet shopping has proved very popular in Great Britain. It is estimated that two thirds (67%) of adults bought goods or services online in 2012, up from just over half (53%) in 2008. Almost 9 in every 10 adults (87%) aged 25 to 34 shopped online in 2012; this was the highest proportion of adults across all age groups. Additionally, nearly a third (32%) of those aged over 65 also bought online, double the estimate in 2008 of 16%.

There is a noticeable difference in the type of goods bought online, when analysed by age. In 2012, only 18% of those aged 16 to 24 bought holiday accommodation online, compared with 42% of those aged 35 to 44.

Clothes or sports goods were the most popular online purchase in 2012, purchased by 42% of adults. Those aged 35 to 44 were most likely to buy these items (59%).

Proportionately, more women purchased clothes and sports goods, books, magazines and newspapers, food and groceries than men. In contrast, men purchased in greater proportions than women, across a range of categories, in particular electronic equipment, video games, films, and computer hardware and software.

Internet use 'on the go'
Over the past ten years the way in which people access the Internet has changed. When the Internet first became available, the only way that the majority of adults could gain access was from their home or at work. Increasingly Internet use 'on the go' (outside of the home or work) has become an aviable option and is now a popular means of accessing the Internet on a daily basis.

In 2012, almost six in ten adults (58%) accessed the Internet 'on the go', making use of Wifi hotspots or a mobile phone network. More than three quarters of adults (83%) aged under 45 used the Internet 'on the go', with the youngest group, those aged 16 to 24, reporting the highest use (89%). This was closely followed by those aged 25 to 34 (85%).

Internet use over a portable computer (laptop, tablet, notebook and netbook)
The term 'portable computer' used to be assigned to the use of a laptop, notebook or netbook. However, there has been very large growth, recently, in the use of tablet computers such as Apple iPads or Samsung Galaxy tablets. In 2012, 21% of adults used a tablet to access the Internet away from the home or work. This, again, was more prevalent among the younger age groups, with those aged 16 to 24 reporting the highest use (37%).

Despite this rapid growth in the use of tablet computers, more people (34%) still accessed the Internet 'on the go' over a laptop (or notebook / netbook) in 2012 making it the most popular form of portable computing. It will be interesting to see if this changes in future years as tablets seem to be continuing to increase in popularity.

In 2012, 18% of adults used a portable computer (tablet, laptop etc) every day to access the Internet away from home or work. More than a quarter of those aged under 45 accessed the Internet daily this way, with the highest use (31%) reported by those aged 25 to 34.

Wifi hotspots (at restaurants, hotels etc) were the most popular way adults accessed the Internet on a portable computer (69%). The use of a mobile phone network by adults to connect to the Internet on a portable computer was also popular, at 56%.

Internet use over a mobile phone (or other handheld device)
In 2012, 51% of adults used a mobile phone to access the Internet. This is more than double the estimate of 24% for 2010. The two youngest age groups (16 to 24 and 25 to 34) both reported mobile phone Internet use above 80% in 2012. While still reporting the lowest usage, those aged over 65 have shown a four-fold increase in mobile phone Internet use from 2% in 2010 to 8% in 2012. Men (56%) were more likely to use the Internet on their mobile phone than women (46%).

In 2012, almost one third of all adults used a mobile phone to access the Internet on a daily basis. Those aged 16 to 24 were most likely to use a mobile phone to access the Internet every day (60%). This is compared to just 2% of those aged over 65.

Adults who used a mobile phone to access the Internet most commonly used a mobile phone network to go online (85%). Just under half (49%) reported making use of wifi hotspots to access the Internet.

Activities on a mobile phone (or other handheld device)
In 2012, the most popular activity carried out on a mobile phone, as measured by the survey, was the sending or receiving of emails (41% of all adults used a mobile phone to access their emails in 2012). A third of adults accessed social networks on a mobile phone. This was the most popular activity for those aged 16 to 24 (72%).

Almost a third of adults (32%) used location based applications such as Google maps on a mobile phone in 2012. These apps make use of a Global Positioning System (GPS) to plot a location or help a user find services nearby. Men were more likely to use these applications (40%) than women (25%). More than half of those aged under 35 used these applications; 50% of the youngest group (those aged 16 to 24) and 60% of those aged 25 to 34. This is in contrast to only 14% of those aged 55 to 64 and 3% of adults aged 65+.