Digital Wellness Day: UK insights on access and cost

As Brits struggle to access the internet, data usage costs are mounting; a roundup of use patterns after Digital Wellness Day.
11 May 2023

Do you know how much your data usage costs? On May 5, Digital Wellness Day gave us a chance to reflect on internet usage patterns. It’s important to increase awareness around technology access and individuals’ relationship with tech in the increasingly digital world we live in.

In theUK, for instance, over 10 million Brits lack the basic digital skills necessary to get online. This prevents them from accessing education, digital healthcare, online banking and other essential day-to-day activities.

Further, just 36% of those with no formal educational qualifications reported using the internet, compared to 95% of people who underwent higher education. The Digital Poverty Alliance, a charity initiative aiming to end digital poverty in the UK by 2030, allows online access for all through initiatives such as Tech4Teachers – which saw laptops and training provided to teachers to enable them to better prepare students for the online world.

Loss of opportunity

Elizabeth Anderson, COO at the Alliance, said “For many, the use of technology comes as second nature, which makes it even more important to remember and support those who struggle to use it for various reasons, such as affordability or lack of skills. Millions of people across the UK miss out on the basic services access to technology can provide, and this can have further negative implications on areas such as education, job searching and access to public services, to name a few.”

On average, UK adults currently spend four hours a day online, with 92% of businesses stating that they require at least a basic level of digital skill from their employees. With the rising cost of living, research shows that pricing can act as a key barrier to access.

Another way that internet users ramp up their costs is by browsing the internet using mobile data. Be it while commuting or on a lunch break, we browse social media sites for hours – Uswitch mobiles found that UK TikTok users amass more than 27 hours a month on the platform. Of all social media apps, it’s the most data hungry.

According to USwitch, social media usage in the UK is actually declining, but TikTok has managed to buck the trend. It’s not made it into the top five most popular apps in the UK yet, but still manages to take up the most time Brits spend online.

Source: Meltwater

By using just these five apps, the average Briton  is draining 38.75GB of data a month – before accounting for general browsing, messaging, and other uses of the internet.

Source: USwitch, via

TikTok drives up data usage costs

The average TikTok user opens the app 19 times a day. Globally, data from Qustodio shows that in 2020 children spent an average of 75 minutes per day on TikTok. In the US, the average increases to 87 minutes. Unsurprisingly, this only kept rising: by 2022, the numbers for TikTok globally reached 107 mins/day of use. In the UK, this use climbs even higher, reaching a daily average of 114 minutes on TikTok.

That gets expensive in a hurry. The cost of 1GB of mobile data is 7x higher in the US than in the UK. The price rose by 68 percent year-on-year in the US, as the cost of data reached an average of $5.62 per GB in 2022.

TikTok uses 840MB (just under 1GB) of data an hour; a child on a long journey will blow through gigabytes of data. As cost cuts off users, it’s important to keep on top of extra data charges.

Tips for keeping data usage low

Using Wi-Fi where possible (although there’s a whole other minefield in Wi-Fi when it comes to which public networks you can really trust), especially if you know you’ll be using video or streaming platforms. Avoid sensitive activities on an unsecured network, or use a VPN to protect your data.

Adjust your mobile phone settings so apps running in the background don’t drain your data. Some might even go as far as turning off cellular data or putting on airplane mode when they don’t need to use the internet.

Some networks allow you to set up a network cap. Understanding your average use is also key; if you keep running out of data and having to buy more – at a premium – it could be worth investing in an unlimited data plan to keep your data usage costs down.