Spending hours trawling the web is no longer the sole domain of bespectacled techies and IT geeks - British broadband users now spend an average of one full day every week surfing the internet, according to new research.

Broadband is now present in almost ten million UK homes, with the average user spending around 50 days a year online (an average of 23 hours and 34 minutes each week), according to a YouGov survey of 15,323 users.

"It's very exciting to see Britain taking broadband by the scruff of the neck and making full use of the online world in today's demanding 24/7 environment," says USwitch broadband product manager Chris Williams.

"The flexibility of the internet means it's the perfect place for multi-tasking, having fun and generally 'getting things done' and the uptake of broadband in the past 18 months has been nothing short of explosive," he adds.

Broadband internet connections are faster than the traditional dial-up version, making previously time-consuming online chores much more efficient.

Broadband users also turn to their PCs for traditional entertainment such as listening to the radio, watching TV and making phone calls, although general surfing is the most popular activity at an average seven hours and 54 minutes per week.

Watching television online takes an average two hours and 23 minutes, while internet shoppers spend one hour and 53 minutes bargain hunting.

Users also clock up four hours and 40 minutes a week playing online games, followed by three hours and 26 minutes on email.

Phone calls over the internet - known as VoIP calls - take one hour and 52 minutes while online banking clocks up an average one hour and 26 minutes.

"First of all, it's always good to check whether or or not your provider includes firewalls and anti-virus software in your package," Chris Williams advises.

"If they don't, it's definitely worth buying it because getting a virus on your computer is a hassle that you could really do without," he says..

"Secondly, Skype (www.skype.com) is a very handy programme that allows you to talk to other Skype users online - for example you might download it in the UK and your friend might down-load it in Australia and when you both log into your Skype account you can talk to each other there and then for free," he said.

"It's a little bit like MSN Messenger except that you can actually talk to them rather than typing a message."

If you download lots of music and film clips, remember to check that the package you have subscribed to has a high enough download cap to cope with what you are doing, he recommends.

"A tight cap would be one gigabyte (1Gb) which is equivalent to about 250 songs so make sure that you keep track of what you and your family are downloading," he said.

"If you do go over your limit your supplier will either charge you extra or they might start restricting your service.

"If have a very cheap broadband package the reason might well be because you can't down-load very much - there is always something to check and it really pays to know exactly what you're signing up for." n To find out about the type of technology use in your neighbourhood and areas with similar profiles in the UK, visit www.spatialliteracy.org/esocietyprofiler and enter your postcode.