Friday, December 15, 2006

Do we really watch THAT much TV?

Reuters reports on the "Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2007" released today by the U.S. Census Bureau:

Americans will spend nearly 10 hours a day watching television, surfing the Internet, reading books, newspapers and magazines and listening to music this year, the U.S. Census Bureau said on Friday....

The information in the abstract is culled from Census Bureau surveys and from data collected by other government agencies, industry and trade groups and private organizations.

Industry groups provided the information on media usage. They projected Americans will spend an average of nearly 4 1/2 hours daily in front of the television in 2006, or 1,555 hours in all.

Americans will spend another 2 1/2 hours listening to radio and a half hour listening to recorded music. The rest of the nearly 10 hours is spent reading newspapers, looking at the Internet, playing video games and reading other media.

I'm guessing that "other media" includes books. But let's get back to that 4-1/2 hours a day that the average American is spending in front of the TV. People love to cite "facts" like that as evidence that we're a country of couch potatoes. I'm not a big TV watcher (we have only one TV in our home, and it's in the basement), but the TV watchers I know rarely watch TV without doing something else at the same time. If the TV is on while you're paying bills, fielding phone calls, changing diapers, cooking dinner, walking on a treadmill, folding laundry, or arguing about politics with your spouse, are you really watching TV? No. The TV is on, and you're glancing at it every couple of minutes, maybe laughing at an occasional joke. Maybe a good show comes on and you find yourself rivited for as long as fifteen minutes. But then it's time for a commercial, and once again, you disengage. Yet a Nielsen box would record that during those minutes, you were "watching" TV.

Time spent reading books can be calculated with much more accuracy. If you're reading a book, your hands are full and both eyeballs are trained on the page and it's kind of hard to do anything else. (Of course, many a young mother is capable of reading with one hand while using the other hand to stir a pan full of macaroni and cheese, but you get my drift.) If you're reading, you're reading.

I wish the average American would read more instead of watching all those inane sitcoms and reality TV shows. But I'm not too bothered by the "fact" that Americans are watching 4-1/2 hours of TV a day because experience and common sense tell me it just isn't true.

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Julie Carobini said...

That is so true, Brenda! Except for my kids-lol. Seriously, when they're watching tv their all about the tv--who cares if their dinner's on fire! As for adults, I can't think of the last show that I actually sat and watched all the way through. I'm usually making dinner, cleaning up, fielding homework questions, shutting it off early to pick up one of the kids, and on and on.

Good observation! Ain't it funny how stats can be skewed?

As for books, I carry one around in my car for those times when I'm waiting for one child or another. At the end of the day, though, I'm all about the book on my nightstand. David Letterman can wait :-)

Kristin said...

I am an admitted TV/movie junkie. The only activities I do while watching TV? Folding laundry and doing my bills. Otherwise, I don't like to be distracted with something else while watching my favorite shows.

Brenda Coulter said...

Kristin, I guess you're just more focused than the rest of us.

Julie, we live in a neighborhood with railroad tracks, so in the years when I was dragging my kids to school, music lessons, and baseball practice, I got quite a lot of reading done in the car during "train stops."