Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Screen Time and “Active” Couch Potatoes

Are you an “active” couch potato? Sitting . . . yes. Sedentary . . . yes. Active . . . that depends. It’s not just sitting in front of the TV watching, and not just sitting in front of a computer Tweeting, chatting, posting or surfing—it’s doing it all at once. In fact, the latest A. C. Nielsen Co. “Three Screen Report” says Americans in general now spend 35 percent more time in front of the TV and using the Internet at the same time than they did last year. Translation: 3.5 hours of overlapping TV / Internet time for the average American. Well, that’s sort of active.

The breakdown . . . the average American adult spends almost 2.5 hours each day in front of a computer screen, and watches about five hours and nine minutes of live TV each day. But if you ask someone how long they spend in front of the TV, most underestimate the time they spend by 25 percent. For children, the statistics are not much better. Total time per day in front of a screen—about 8.5 hours.

Children ages 8 to 18 spend on average 7.5 hours a day using and absorbing media on a screen. (That’s about the amount of time they spend in school.) They spend 4.5 hours watching TV, 1.5 hours on the computer and more than an hour playing video games. By “multitasking” they manage to cram about 11 hours of content into those 7.5 hours. (Fast Company) They spend on average 25 minutes a day reading books.

And while we’re talking about screen-time statistics, how’s this for balance?

  • Percentage of Americans that regularly watch TV while eating dinner: 66%
  • Number of hours of TV watched annually by Americans: 250 billion
  • Percentage of day care centers that use TV during a typical day: 70%
  • Number of murders seen on TV by the time an average child finishes elementary school: 8,000
  • Number of violent acts seen on TV by age 18: 200,000
  • Number of 30-second TV commercials seen in a year by an average child: 20,000

Do we have a problem? Now, think about the other screens we spend our time in front of (in addition to television and Internet). It’s a long list . . . mobile phones, smart phones, GPS devices, movies, electronic books, Wii, hand held games . . . and that’s not a complete list.

Here’s one final statistic: Number of minutes per week parents spend in meaningful conversation with their children: 3.5

So, how many hours in front of a screen qualify you as a bonafide couch potato? Hmmm, what else could we be doing with all that time?

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