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Happy Birthday ‘The Internet’ – New Research Shows UK Usage Continues To Rise

October isn’t all about pumpkins and Squid Game – it is also when International Internet Day happens (29th October), an event that celebrates the first ever ‘internet transmission’ between two computers (L and O) that took place on this day in 1969.

And given the worldwide OUTRAGE that ensued after the outage of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp earlier in the month, the internet is definitely something people care about – so perhaps it’s time to celebrate its positives this year!

Zen Internet has rounded up latest stats from UK-wide research as well as its own network data, highlighting just how much we love the internet and some staggering increases in how long we spend streaming, scrolling and staring at screens!

Steve Warburton from says:

“While 2020 saw an unprecedented increase in Internet consumption (more than 75% among Zen customers), figures illustrate usage has continued to rise in 2021. Latest data shows internet usage in the UK has increased by another 9% this year, reinforcing the trend that we’re continuing to do more online. Peak usage is now almost 150% more than just two years ago according to our data1.”

It was reported that consumers bought more than 21 million new connected devices during the first lockdown2. “And thousands of people are continuing to work from home,” adds Warburton, “as well as maintaining many streaming, gaming and video calling habits brought on by lockdowns, which all go towards explaining our continued reliance on the internet for work, socialising and play!”


  • It’s estimated the average time spent online per day per user is just over three and a half hours (on smartphones, tablets and computers)3!  This is likely to increase further during the winter months with consumers snuggling in their homes earlier during the dark evening.


  • In August 2021 Zen Internet recorded its biggest peak of the year, at the start of the English Football League Championship where traffic was 11% higher than average.


  • An average of 1 hour 21 minutes a day is also reported as how long is spent watching online services such as Netflix and BBC iPlayer on TVs3.


  • By the end of 2020, about 94% of UK homes had internet access, up from about 89% in 2019.3


So is all this time online good for us? More stats from Zen show that in the past 18 months millions of Brits used the internet to enhance their skills! 


59 per cent of Brits learnt a new skill, with 44 per cent turning to the internet to kick start a new hobby4.


The most popular new thing learnt in the past 18 months is baking and cooking, with just under a quarter of people pulling out their pinny to get cooking and baking for the first time.

A massive 15 per cent of people started gaming, a similar number to those who introduced a new talent in arts and crafts. One in 10 began learning a new language.


These figures show just how beneficial reliable access to the internet can be – with a previous Zen study showing that we actually spent more time with family and friends via get-togethers over the internet, compared to the amount of time spent with them face-to-face before the pandemic.


The team at Zen also has these three top tips for healthy internet use.


1. Re-evaluate whether the content you’re consuming is having a positive impact on mental health 

It’s important to remember that you are in control of who and what you interact with in the digital world. Take a realistic view on how you are using your devices – what apps might not be having a healthy impact on your mental health and what could you delete – even for the short term. Known as ‘digital pruning’ this is a practice that can be repeated every few months. Curate and shape your social media feed into something that you want to see and engage with day-to-day – after all you are in control.


2. Proactively adopt digital activities that enhance your life

From health and fitness to meditation, education, online libraries, support groups, gaming, music instructional videos and so much more – these days there is an app or platform that can support almost all areas of our lives. There is so much more to the online world than scrolling through social media – why not think about how you can make the digital space enhance your life.

Of course, carrying out these activities online is never a replacement to in real life connections, however it can bridge the gap when you can’t get to a gym or if your friends live 200 miles away, for example. The key is to choose the activities that will add to your life in a positive way.


3. Set boundaries

One of the biggest changes recently has been a shift to home or hybrid working which, although it has many lifestyle benefits, can also mean that our work and home life have become intrinsically entwined.

With laptops and computers constantly at the dining table or switched on in the home office, not to mention notifications pinging on your mobile phone, we have become ‘always on’.

Whether it is signing off from work at 5:30pm every day or limiting time on social media or gaming – it is crucial to set boundaries and stick to them. This could be removing your email notifications at the weekend, setting a time where all family members are off their digital devices or being strict about having a digital detox an hour before bed. They key to having a healthy relationship with the online world is not to let it take over your life, so putting some clear rules and steps in place will help you strike that balance.

It is clear that the pandemic has supercharged our reliance on technology and that has brought its challenges – but there are also many positives to this. Helping people to stay connected, motivated, inspired and informed, the connection we have felt via our devices has been invaluable. However, as the world opens up once more, now is the time to assess our relationship with our technology and ensure that it remains healthy and happy.