One in four people in Scotland ditch their device to digitally detox

4 Aug 2016 01:01 PM

One in four internet users in Scotland have undertaken a 'digital detox' in a bid to strike a healthier balance between technology and life beyond the screen, according to major new Ofcom research.

  • Majority of internet users say they're 'hooked', spending almost 21 hours a week online
  • Study shows effects of internet use on sleep, family and relationships
  • Detoxers find time offline productive and liberating, while others fear missing out
  • But internet also making life easier and broadening our horizons

The study reveals how our reliance on the internet is affecting people's personal and working lives, leading many to seek time away from the web to spend time with friends and family.

Ofcom's Communications Market Report Scotland 2016 finds that 25% of internet users in Scotland have sought a period of time offline, with one in ten (10%) doing so in the last week alone.

The most common reasons for taking a 'tech timeout' were to spend more time doing other things (cited by 47%) and more time with friends and family (29%).

Scots felt they were better able to cope without the internet than people in the UK as a whole (61% compared with 52%). Many also found their time offline to be a positive experience: almost half (45%) said they felt more productive, 33% enjoyed life more and a quarter (25%) found it liberating.

However, over one in ten (15%) experienced a 'fear of missing out' ('FOMO') while on the web wagon, 21% felt lost and 15% 'cut-off'.

Broadband boost in Glasgow

Ofcom's report shows that three quarters of homes in Scotland (78%) now have a fixed line broadband connection, up from 71% in 2015.

People are also increasingly using smartphones to get online. This is particularly evident in Glasgow where the take-up of web-enabled mobile phones has continued to increase year on year, rising from 61% in 2015 to 85% in 2016.

By the end of March 2016, 69% of adults in Glasgow had internet access through a fixed broadband connection (up from 62% in 2015). Internet access increases to 88%, however, when taking account of those who use a mobile device to get online - bringing the city in line with the rest of the UK.

Popularity of online and on-demand services

As a result of being better connected, people in Scotland can spend more time doing what they love online - such as watching the latest on-demand series, or chatting with friends and family via instant messaging services, both of which have seen a surge in popularity.

The proportion of Scottish adults using instant messaging services, such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, at least once a week rose from 18% in 2014, to 46% in 2016 - the only significant increase across all communications and media activities.

Adults in Scotland are also spending more time watching paid on-demand content through services such as Netflix and Now TV than in 2014. Time spent watching paid on-demand content per day increased by 20 minutes since 2014 (from 41 minutes to 1 hour 1 minute). Conversely, time spent watching live TV is down by 13 minutes (from 3 hours 26 minutes to 3 hours 13 minutes) and recorded TV decreased by 20 minutes (from 1 hour 21 minutes to 1 hour 1 minute).

Scots also credit the internet with broadening their horizons; three-quarters (76%) of internet users say that being online enables them to do things they wouldn't be able to do otherwise, while six in ten (58%) say they would know a lot less about the world if they did not have access to the internet. Just over eight in ten (81%) said that the internet had made their life easier, saving time and effort with services like banking and shopping.

Connectivity creep

As a result of the internet's importance in many people's daily lives, adult users in Scotland currently spend an average of 20.9 hours online; 29% say they go online more than 10 times a day, while 7% access the internet more than 50 times daily.

Six out of ten internet users in Scotland (60%) even consider themselves 'hooked' on their connected device - while one in five (20%) admit they feel nervous without their mobile phone. Many internet users are, however, facing up to the consequences of spending too much time online, and recognising how this can affect their work and personal lives.

More than half of internet users in Scotland (53%) said they were guilty of 'connectivity creep' - spending longer browsing the internet than they originally intended each day, while 37% said the same of social media.

As a result, 44% neglected housework; 42% said they had missed out on sleep or were tired the next day; while 27% had missed out on spending time with friends and family.

People also reported a lack of 'netiquette' from strangers who can't seem to put their devices down. Just over two fifths of adults in Scotland (21%) complained that someone bumped into them in the street at least once a week because they were too busy looking at their phone.


Our attachment to our connected devices is also getting in the way of face-to-face communication, according to the research.

Seven in ten adults in Scotland (72%) felt they'd been 'smart-snubbed' - ignored by a friend or relative too engrossed in their smartphone or tablet - with 32% experiencing this at least once a week, and 10% stating it happened on a daily basis.

The research also suggests some people are choosing to text or instant message friends and family instead of talking face-to-face, even though they're sitting in the same room. Around a fifth of people in Scotland (19%) had done this.

Vicki Nash, Director of Ofcom, Scotland said: "The internet has increasingly broadened our horizons and changed our lives for the better. But as more Scots get connected, many admit to feeling hooked.

"So many of us are beginning to take a fresh look at how we use technology and going on a digital detox to enjoy life beyond the screen."

Ofcom's Communications Market Report is a comprehensive annual study of the UK's internet, telecoms, broadcasting and postal sectors. It includes reports for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales. The report acts as a reference for industry and consumers, and provides context and evidence for Ofcom's work in making communications services work for everyone.

Other market developments


  • People in Scotland aged 4+ spent an average of 4 hours a day watching broadcast television in 2015, more than the UK average of 3 hours 36 minutes.
  • More than a third (34%) of adults in Scotland said that watching live TV was their most important media activity - higher than the UK average (27%).
  • BBC, STV and ITV Border Scotland spending on first-run originated content for viewers in Scotland decreased by £14m in 2015.1
  • In 2015, 4.3% (5.2% in 2014) of PSB network programming spend on first run productions was directed toward Scotland in return for 7.2% (7.5% in 2014) of first run production hours. This indicates that the average cost per hour of production was less than the UK average. Telecoms
  • As of May 2016, Scotland had the lowest proportion of premises with outdoor 3G coverage from at least one mobile network, across the UK nations, at 97.9%. Similarly, 85.6% of premises were in areas with 3G coverage from all four networks, the second lowest proportion after Wales.
  • In Scotland, 92% of premises were in areas with outdoor 4G coverage from at least one mobile network in May 2016. More than half (58.4%) of premises in Scotland had outdoor coverage from all four 4G networks, the second lowest proportion across the UK nations. This is an increase of 21.4 percentage points compared to last year, although Scotland experienced the slowest increase in 4G coverage by all four 4G networks across the UK nations.


  • The average time spent listening to radio in Scotland is on par with the UK average. During an average week in 2015, 87.9% of adults in Scotland listened to the radio and tuned in for an average of 21.1 hours each week.
  • Commercial stations accounted for 50% of listening hours in Scotland in 2015. This is 7pp higher than the UK average and the highest across any of the UK nations.
  • Despite a fall of 12p per head of population in 2015, Scotland has by far the highest local per-capita commercial radio revenue. At £7.90 per head, it is higher than the UK average.


  • Overall household broadband (fixed and mobile broadband) take-up in Scotland (79%) was comparable to the UK average (81%) in 2016 with no significant change year-on-year. However, rural areas in Scotland were less likely than urban areas to have access to broadband (70% vs. 81%).


  • Just below three in ten (29%) adults in Scotland said that they had not sent an item of post in the past month.
  • Just over a quarter of adults (27%) in Scotland said that they had sent a personal letter by post in the past month, whereas nearly four in ten (38%) said that they had sent a formal letter.
  • People in Scotland are generally highly satisfied with specific aspects of Royal Mail's service. When asked about their satisfaction with specific aspects of Royal Mail's services, over nine in ten people said they were satisfied with: the availability of post boxes (94%), the security of the service (93%), the time of day post is delivered (91%) and the length of time the post takes to reach its destination (90%).
  • Nearly nine in ten businesses in Scotland said they were satisfied with the quality of service from Royal Mail. Businesses were asked about their overall satisfaction with the quality of service they received from Royal Mail, both as a recipient and as a sender of mail. Nearly nine in ten (87%) of business respondents in Scotland said they were 'very satisfied' or 'fairly satisfied' with the service provided by Royal Mail. This is higher than in England (78%) but in line with the other nations.


  1. For comparative reasons it is important to note that two exceptional events took place in Scotland in 2014: the 2014 Commonwealth Games, held in Glasgow during July and August, and the Referendum on Scottish Independence in September. However with the exception of 2014, the 2015 spend of £55m on new content for viewers in Scotland was greater than in any year since 2007 in nominal terms.
  2. In addition to making much of the data used in the report available to access, use and share as open data, we are also launching two interactive tools to allow additional analysis of consumer research data from our tracking surveys and our Digital Day research. These will be accessible at
  3. Ofcom's Connected Nations 2015 report showed that cable broadband was available to 36% of premises in Scotland in 2015; fibre broadband was available to 75% of premises; and 73% of premises in Scotland could access superfast broadband. This report will be updated later in 2016, when Ofcom has comparable data relating to the June 2016 availability of cable and fibre broadband services as well as superfast broadband. This data will also be analysed in more detail in the Connected Nations Report 2016.

Ofcom is the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries. We have responsibilities across television, radio, video on demand, telecoms, wireless communications and postal services. News releases and other resources for journalists can be found at: