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AI-using kids and daytime porn: New research reveals online habits

Kids checking a phone
Kids checking a phone Copyright Canva
Copyright Canva
By Jonny Walfisz
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Four in five children have used AI tools online, while adult internet usage is at 56 days every year.

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The latest research from the UK’s broadcast and telecommunications regulator Ofcom has revealed the ways Brits’ online habits are changing.

AI use among children is the headline topic of the study. The Online Nation research found four in five (79%) of teenagers aged 13-17 use generative AI tools. 40% of younger children aged 7-12 also have started to use the technology.

Among the under 17 age group, the most popular AI tool is Snapchat My AI, an AI chatbot hosted by social media platform Snapchat. Over half of the age group used the chatbot, with teenage girls (75%) making up the largest segment.

“Getting rapidly up to speed with new technology comes as second nature to Gen Z, and generative AI is no exception. While children and teens are driving its early adoption, we’re also seeing older internet users exploring its capabilities, both for work and for leisure,” says Yih-Choung Teh, Ofcom’s Group Director, Strategy and Research.

ChatGPT was the most popular AI platform with over 16s and is more preferred by boys.

Adults above 16 years old reported that the majority (69%) had never used AI with 24% claiming to have no idea what it even is.

For those using AI, the vast majority (48%) are making use of chatbots and simply exploring what the software is capable of. In order, the next most popular uses are finding content (36%), seeking advice (22%), devising text (20%) and creating images (20%).

Understanding AI better than adults
Understanding AI better than adultsCanva

Over half of respondents (58%) reported concerns of the impact of AI on society, with 16-24-year-olds the most concerned (67%).

Teh continued that Ofcom recognises “that some people are concerned about what AI means for the future. As online safety regulator, we’re already working to build an in-depth understanding of the opportunities and risks of new and emerging technologies, so that innovation can thrive, while the safety of users is protected.”

Other online trends

Beyond the discoveries around AI usage, Ofcom also quizzed the British public on the shifts in its wider internet usage.

The average time spent online every day has increased by eight minutes to 3 hours and 41 minutes from last year’s report. This might seem small but accounts for two more entire days online over 2022 – making a total of 56 days spent online every year.

Young adults aged 18-24 spent the most time online, at an average of 70 days online a year.

Facebook is no longer the most used social media site in the UK. YouTube has taken the trophy as it was used by 91% of adults, compared to the 90.7% using Facebook.

This year saw the release of Threads, a new social media platform by Meta that is intended to rival X (formerly known as Twitter). It has seen nearly a quarter of online adults (23%) try the platform, still a way off from X’s numbers (52%).

Concerning patterns

Children and teenagers aged 11-18 reported they feel more confident communicating online than in person (71% against 53%).

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While 81% of 11-18-year-olds reported the internet helped with schoolwork and supporting creativity , 71% of 13-17-year-olds said they had encountered harmful content in the past month. Potential harms included animal cruelty, promotion of suicide, promotion of self-harm, and unwelcome messages.

Over a fifth (22%) of 8-17-year-olds also reported that they had created false profiles aged over-18 to access social media sites.

Where's your other hand, mate?
Where's your other hand, mate?Canva

Porn use was also charted by the study. Nearly a third (29%) or 13.8 million adult internet users accessed pornographic content online. Of this group, 10.1 million were men.

The most common time of day to access pornography was also within typical working hours between 9am and 5.29pm.

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