Statistics on New Media usage reveals that young people use new media a lot more than old people, men more than women and the middle classes slightly more than the working classes.
In 2019, almost nine in ten (87%) UK households had internet access, and adults who use the internet spent, on average, 3 hours 15 minutes a day online (in September 2018) (1)
Around 70% of UK adults have a social media account and about one in every five minutes spent online is on social media (1)
The number of households connected to the internet and the use of New Media has increased rapidly in the last decade, but statistics from OFCOM clearly show that there are still differences in new media usage by age, social class and gender.
For an overview of what the New Media are, please see these two posts:
The generation divide
New media usage varies significantly by age.
This is especially clear if we contrast the youngest age groups (as classified by OFCOM) of 16-24 year olds with the oldest of 74+
The differences are less marked, but still clear if we look at a wider variety of age groups. I’ve deliberately selected two consecutive age groups below (45-54 and 55-64) because there appears to be quite a significant drop off in new media usage between these two age categories.
|AGE 16-24s||45-54s:||55-64s:||AGE 75+|
|93% have a social media profile; 1% do not use the internet||76% have a social media profile; 7% do not use the internet|
58% have a social media profile; 19% do not use the internet
20% have a social media profile; 48% do not use the internet
The social class digital divide
Working-age adults in DE socio-economic group1 households are more than three times as likely as those in non-DE households to be non-users of the internet (14% vs. 4%). (1)
The contrast is best shown by comparing the highest socio-economic group (AB) with the lowest socio-economic group (DE):
Socio-Economic Group AB:
- 97% use a mobile phone
- 73% watch on-demand or streamed content
- 74% have a social media profile
- 57% correctly identify advertising on Google
- 6% do not use the internet (2)
Socioeconomic Group DE:
- 93% use a mobile phone
- 46% watch on-demand or streamed content
- 56% have a social media profile
- 37% correctly identify advertising on Google
- 23% do not use the internet (2)
The digital gender divide
- In 2017, women (81%) continue to be more likely to have a profile/ account, compared to men (74%). (4)
- Women are more likely than men to say they have ever seen content that upset or offended them in social media over the past year (58% vs. 51%). (4)
- (50%) of men say they are ‘very’ interested in the news (50%) compared to only a third (34%) of women. Twice as many women (15%) as men (8%) are not interested. (4)
- A quarter of men (24%) play games online, compared to 9% of women. (4)
Is there a significant new media digital divide in the UK in 2019?
- While there does seem to be a very significant generation divide between the very youngest and oldest, the differences between young adults and those in their early 50s is relatively small.
- There does appear to be some evidence that those in class DE are less well connected than those in class DE with nearly a quarter of adults in class DE not being connected to the internet.
- There also appear to be quite significant differences by gender: women are more likely to have social media profiles while men are much more likely to take an interest in the news.
Signposting and Relevance to A-level Sociology
This material is mainly relevant to students studying the media topic as part of A-level sociology.
- OFCOM – Online Nation 2019 – https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0024/149253/online-nation-summary.pdf
- OFCOM – Media Use and Attitudes Report 2019 – https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0021/149124/adults-media-use-and-attitudes-report.pdf
- OFCOM’s Interactive data link.