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Screen time and the generational divide

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 3, 2009 - The headline on a recent study piqued my interest: “Study of Video Viewing Finds Younger Boomers Consume More Video Media Than Any Other Group.”

We tend to hear incessantly about how young people are watching video on their laptops and their iPhones. And it’s traditionally been older viewers who have propped up the nightly news and other network shows. So it came as a bit of a surprise that neither demographic led on the video viewing front.

In fact, people ages 45 to 54 on average watch the most media on screens – roughly 9.5 hours in a given day, according to a report from the Nielsen-funded Council for Research Excellence. Every other age group (above 18) has about 8.5 hours a day of screen time. If that sounds like an inordinate amount of exposure, that's because the study looked at visual content presented over traditional TV, the computer, mobile technology and even GPS devices.  

Billed as "the largest and most extensive observational study of media usage ever conducted," researchers at Ball State’s Center for Media Design, who conducted the study for the council, measured media consumption by recording in 10-second increments consumer exposure to visual content.

Another interesting tidbit is that despite an increase in mobile devices that show video, television in the home still is the primary medium for video consumption, even among the 18-to-24 demographic. “This appears to dispute a common belief that Internet video and mobile phone video exposure among that group (and the next one up, age 25-to-34) were significant in 2008,” the study says.  

The data is striking: Even among the 18-to-24 population, 98 percent of video is seen on televisions. It's noteworthy, though, that this age group is last in live television watched (about 3.5 hours a day). They spend the most time texting, talking on cell phones and instant messaging, but not e-mailing. People in the 25-to-34 range are well behind their younger counterparts on the instant messaging and texting/cell phone talking.

The group that spends the most time on the Web? People 35 to 44.

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