Parents are more likely to buy the devices as electronic babysitters to keep children occupied, the communications regulator Ofcom said, with nearly one in three of all homes having one. Those enjoying higher incomes are more likely to rely primarily on a tablet for internet access.
The number of owners has more than trebled in the last year amid significant expansion in the total of households connected to the web.
Ofcom Northern Ireland director Jonathan Rose said: “The rise of the tablet computer is the big story from this year’s report.”
He added: “Consumers value the portability and quick access to the internet at home and on the move that these devices provide.”
Around 29% of homes in Northern Ireland have a tablet compared with 24% across the UK, an Ofcom survey showed. Take-up was particularly common in towns.
Across the UK, many use tablets to keep their children occupied, with playing games the most popular followed by watching short video clips or internet browsing. Ofcom’s report said the surge in Northern Ireland reflects the continuing rise in take-up and use of the internet, with eight in 10 households connected.
Almost half of people own a smartphone, with younger people most likely to use it to get online, often to shop or watch videos. More than half those surveyed access Facebook, Twitter and similar services, while a similar proportion bank online or buy goods and services such as clothes or holidays.
More than half of adults UK-wide multi-task while watching television, including texting or using social networks like Twitter to comment on what they are watching. Others use smartphones and tablets for completely unrelated activities like surfing online. Web-based forms of communication like email or social networking has overtaken texting among those aged 16-24.
Mr Rose said: “It is encouraging to see that the availability, take up and use of most communications services in Northern Ireland are now on a par with, and in some cases, ahead of the rest of the UK.”