Are Millennials starting to ditch their devices?

08/08/2016 By Tim Barber

 The (digital) natives have had enough

Last week Ofcom released the results of its annual Communications Market ReportBy 10AM on the day of launch, the hashtag #DigitalDetox was trending UK-wide on Twitter.

These results (provided by BVA BDRC) showed that  - whilst people are generally more obsessed than ever with their smartphones, tablets and other devices - a growing proportion are seeking a ‘time out’ and taking a break from them.

59% of adults felt they were hooked on at least one of their devices, and this figure approached three-quarters amongst millennials (those aged 16-34).


59 hooked 1

Symptoms vary.  Almost half had neglected housework, nearly a third had missed out on spending time with friends/family, a fifth had neglected their job, and further 13% had been late for work because of spending too much time online.

connectivity creep

The research identified an increase in anti-social behaviour in line with  the increase in connectivity. It identified the phenomenon of “smart snubbing”, when people are eschewing face-to-face conversation, and instead using devices to communicate with their friends and family even though they are in the same room.

26text in same room

60% had had someone bump into them in the street because that person was too busy looking at their phone, and a quarter said that it happened at least weekly!


Digital detox

This overreliance on connected devices helps explain why a third (34%) of people (equivalent to 15 million UK adults) has purposely spent some time offline because they thought they were using the internet too much.

15 mil detox


Of particular interest is the proportion of ‘digital natives’ (i.e. those who have never known a world in which such technology wasn’t a part of their lives) who have taken a “digital detox”.  Over half (52%) of 16-24s had detoxed, and 45% of 25-34s had done so.  There is a balance to be achieved between that oh-so-millennial affliction of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), and the sense of liberation gained by cutting the cord, albeit temporarily.  Several techniques stood out.  Three in 10 said they had taken some form of digital detox holiday, with 13% purposely leaving their phone at home.  7% had suspended a social media account in order to reduce the amount of time they spend online, and 3% had swapped their smartphone for a non-smartphone.  In all cases, actions were more likely to be taken by those in the 16-34 age group.


So although those ‘born with a device in their hand’ are more likely to feel they have a problem, they are also more likely to take (sometimes drastic) action to deal with it.

If any of this rings a bell with you, then (to paraphrase a TV show from my youth) why don't you just switch off your internet and go out and do something less boring instead?


For more information on the research we conducted, or to find out more about connecting with the connected consumer, please get in touch.

With special thanks to Ofcom's marketing team for the use of their visuals for this story.