Nine in ten adults are now online with most thinking the benefits of the internet outweigh the risks, but many are turned off by all forms of digital advertising, according to new research.
The report, from Ofcom’s Adult’s Media Use and Attitudes Report, covers issues facing internet use and media consumption.
It found that that 40% of Brits dislike ads, a quarter are unaware they receive a personalised ad experience and a tenth of experience web users listed advertising as their main online concern.
The report found that British adults spend 24 hours each week on the internet double the amount of time they did a decade ago. The figure was even higher among those aged 16 to 24, who spent 34 hours of their week on the web. Internet hours fell to 29 for those aged 25 to 34 and 18.1 for the 54-64 bracket. It was down to 9.8 hours for those aged over 75.
Nine in ten adults are now online – including 96 per cent of those under 55 and 98 per cent of those aged 16 to 24.
The report said: “Whereas in previous years being without internet access would have been an irritating inconvenience, some would now consider it a threat to their livelihood.”
As reliance on the net increases “people need the skills to question and make judgements about their online environment”, Ofcom warned.
It added: “These skills are important as they enable them to keep themselves and others safe, to understand when they are being advertised to and how their data is being used, and to know when something could be biased or misleading.
“Our research shows that many people struggle with at least some of these elements.”
10% of respondents said they did not question what they saw online and 23% of social media users would not bother checking if something they read on sites such as Twitter or Facebook was trustworthy.
Social media popularity is booming among those looking for an ‘alternative viewpoint’ on news.
Asked where they would go if looking for a different take on traditional news, 25% said they would consult sites such as Twitter and Facebook.
Half of users are concerned about what is on the web and 27% have specific fears about what it might be doing to society with the same number revealing they had seen ‘hateful content’ online in the past year.
The report also revealed the vast difference between age groups in attitudes towards phones. When asked what device they could not live without, 74 per cent of those aged 16 to 24 said their mobile phone and just 7 per cent said their television.
For those aged over 75, only 9 per cent favoured their phone, while 69 per cent rated their TV as most important.
Attitudes to targeted ads
Just under a quarter (23%) of respondents do not mind seeing online ads, 35% caveated that with ads they are interested in.
40% claimed they dislike all online ads. Dislike of online ads grew consistently and dramatically the older the respondent was.
The research polled the public to see if they understand how they are being tracked and monetised online. When asked an open question, they were required to list ways their information is harvested on the web.
71% of all respondents were aware that cookies track their website visits and interests. 61% knew that their social media likes, interests and location was being used to build an advertising profile.
60% understood the implications of opting in to receiving information from services they have registered with. 53% realised the implications of giving third parties access to this registration data.
Only 48% knew the implications of having location activated on their smartphone, that apps were tracking their location for marketing and service purposes.
The study also learned how web users are avoid ads
• 32% don’t tick boxes that allow companies to newsletter and contact them
• 31% have adopted adblocking software or features
• 9% gave out false information to services to ensure they avoid spam and a further
• 9% claimed they only visit ad-free sites
More than half of internet users (59%) knew that search engine results could contain biased or incorrect information but 18% trusted the information, thinking it had been personally scrutinized by the service.
These biases give a good idea how people can be duped by false sources.
58% of users were aware of Google’s paid-for search results but 23% believed it was the best of most relevant results that are being placed at the top of the page, a belief that is no doubt driving ROI in search.