*Sigh.* Sometimes I hear news that just makes me want to cry.
Today is one of those days. And the FDA, for once, has nothing to do with it.
Nielsen Company released a report this week that showed that American TV viewing is at an all-time high.
We are a nation of vidiots.
Yep, in the fourth quarter of last year, personal TV use was at 151 hours per month, up from 145 hours for each of the last three months in the previous year. That would be about 4 ½ hours per day per person.
American households watch, on average, 8 hours, 18 minutes of TV per day. What the?! Oh my, why are Junior’s grades so awful? Why is he “heavy set”?
You might remember that I’m not big on the boob tube. As a household, we easily watch less than that daily dose per week. Instead, we do things like gasp! read, talk, play games, and spend time outside. I know! I’m depriving my young!
Analysts are speculating on the reasons for the uptick in TV watching. One is that the average household has more TVs than people. (Again: What the?!) Also of note is what Nielsen calls “timeshifted TV”, or those fancy schmancy TiVos and DVRs that let you watch your favorite shows on your own time. And don’t forget cells phones and the Internet. Yep, those devices that were supposed to keep us connected? They have…to our televisions!
Most often blamed, of course, is the economy:
As Americans looked for low-cost ways to entertain themselves.
(Psst…BOOKS! It’s called a library, folks, and it’s free!)
- 31 percent of Internet activity occurs when consumers are also watching television. (Must. Have. More. Media.)
- At 7 hours, 11 minutes per month, “timeshifted TV” is watched at double the pace as video online. But young viewers (18-24) watch video on the Internet and on a DVR at the same rate: about 5 hours per month.
- Men continue to watch video on mobile phones more than women, and women continue to watch video on the Internet and television more than men.
- During the fourth quarter, growth of online video was driven by events such as election coverage and the SNL/Sarah Palin clips.
- Weekdays outpaced weekends for online video viewing in October with 65% of online video viewers streaming content between 9am–5pm Monday through Friday (i.e. I don’t feel like working today!), versus 51% of online video viewers logging on between 6am–8pm on weekends.
To see the complete Nielsen report, click here (pdf).
Image: goldsardine on Flickr under a Creative Commons License.
Perhaps 10 years ago, the challenge was whether or not to allow children to watch TV and/or video games. Today–in our visual culture–it is not mostly a question of whether or not (although some children still are not allowed to watch TV); rather, it is a question of what kind of visual input they should have. Should they be allowed to watch PBS? Watch only after they have finished their homework? Perhaps no TV but they could be allowed to have an iPod or iPhone? The plethora of visual stimuli is a cultural challenge, especially for parents to decide and keep ground rules clear for children. But, ah, what about the parents watching 4-8 hours per day?
Low cost my a**. Have you seen how much people drop for a HDTV? And, um, cable or satellite ain’t free folks! If they watched limited themselves to strictly free (after the investment for the box) I bet their tubetime would drop dramatically. PBS is good, but it ain’t that good.
Crimson Wife says
My in-laws keep their TV on all day and it absolutely drives me nuts whenever I visit their house. They’re not even really watching it either- it mostly just serves as background noise.
I remember reading a statistic that something like 1/3 of U.S. households have the television constantly on. Ugh!
Cate Nelson says
I love all three of your comments. If you’ll check out this link, you can hear a discussion (on an NPR show) about the future of TV, where those discussing it actually sound gleeful(ugh!) over how much TV is consumed.
And I say “consumed”, yes, as though it’s food. Some people, like your in-laws, Crimson Wife, truly treat it as sustenance.
We ARE such a visual culture. I do let my kids watch some TV, movies we choose together through Netflix or, for my 3-year-old, the library. (But just because it’s at the library doesn’t mean it’s “good.” We just happen to be able to find 1/2 hour videos easier there.)
Finally, last night, we all watched a movie together. That hasn’t happened in a couple of weeks. When it does, it is clearly a special treat. (Treat! Not sustenance!)
Beside that, my dh and I probably watch 2 movies a week after the kids are in bed. Usually it happens when we are between books. We don’t have cable television (and don’t have the cable hooked to our TV for basic stations), so we choose our videos carefully.
Really, why spend the time if it isn’t worthwhile? Like I mentioned in the blog, and as Chanda seconded, cost?! It seems to me that this is another way that we overlook the long-term costs of things. Fast food is cheap but has long-term costs. TV watching is easier than spending quality time but I suspect also has horrible long term costs.
You can check out another blog I wrote about media and a report that came out last year that found *nothing* beneficial from it: