Adults in the UK are more cautious than Americans when it comes to social media. No question usage is growing, but according to a new report from Ofcom, a British government agency, Brits are increasingly leery about sharing personal information and more concerned about online security than ever before.
The study, conducted in 1,824 in-home interviews, highlights media consumption habits and attitudes. Overall, the number of UK adults with a social network profile has doubled, from 22% in 2007 to 44% in 2009, with more than one-third (35%, to be precise) checking in at least once a week.
More women (48%) than men (40%) reported maintaining an active social profile. Not surprisingly, 69% of the youngest demographic surveyed (16-24) are active social networkers, vs. the 65+ demo, who typically check in only once a week.
As with any statistical research, there’s a self-esteem factor that skews the results. In this case, “ just 1% of U.K. adults who use the Internet said they look at "adult-only Web sites." Riiiiight. In statistical parlance this is a "big fat lie" that flies in the face of 2008 research indicating that some 58% of British men and 18% of women look at online pornography.
Overall, the statistics show a more cautious attitude emerging in the UK, with less sharing of personal information. “Adults with a social networking profile are more likely to only allow friends or family to see it, currently at 80% compared with 48% in 2007. However, some Internet users say they lack confidence in installing filtering software (25%) and installing security features (23%).”
And there are geographical differences as well. “Adults in Scotland are the least likely overall to worry about entering personal data online. Fifty per cent are happy to enter their home address details on the internet compared with 23 per cent in Wales and Northern Ireland. Forty four per cent of adult internet users in Scotland are also happy to enter their credit card details compared with only 19 per cent of adults in Northern Ireland.”
50% of adult Scots have a social networking profile, compared with 46% per cent in Wales, 44% in England and 31% in Northern Ireland.
As for general trust in the media, “half of all adults consider television (52%) and radio content (50%) to be reliable and accurate compared to three in ten internet users judging internet content in this way (31%).”
Other interesting nuggets: the number of respondents who said they "look at other people's pages without leaving a message" decreased from 40% in 2007 to 35% in 2009. Or, that 50% of adults in the UK have saved substantially by price comparison shopping online, and that 81% have saved money by shopping online in the past six months.
As for parental control issues regarding social media in general, those in Northern Ireland are the strictest, with 87% enforcing TV viewing rules, and 36% having PIN or password controls on their television services.
Perhaps even more interesting than the increasing amount of data these studies mine about social media usage, is the wealth of human information about fundamental similarities and differences between nations and cultures in habituation to the most pervasive media on the planet.
As the body of data continues to grow, perhaps we’ll become smarter, quicker and more predictive in its analysis.