July 18, 2012

Prime Time Fuels Cell Phone Usage

Enid Burns for - Your Universe Online

The new way to deal with commercials on TV isn't to fast forward through them, but to pick up your cell phone. While sitting in front of the TV as many as 52 percent of adult cell phone owners use their cell phones. That's one of the findings in a report released by Pew Internet & American Life Project called "The Rise of the 'Connected Viewer'" released this week.

There's a few cell phone-related activities people take part in while watching television, but most of them occur to supplement the content they're watching, or as a distraction when there's a break from interesting topics or programming. Pew reports that 38 percent of cell owners used their cell phone to keep themselves occupied during commercials or breaks from something they're watching. As many as 23 percent used their phone to send and receive text messages with someone else watching the same program. Texting is followed closely with 22 percent of viewers who used their cell phone to check whether something they heard on television was true.

Advertisements and other points of interest during programming spurs 20 percent of adults to look up a website from something mentioned on television, on their phones. Online conversation drove 11 percent to use a cell phone to see what other people said online about a program they're watching, and 11 percent posted their own comments about programs they're watching. Six percent of adults used their phone to vote for a reality show contest.

While the survey questioned adults over 18, findings show younger adults are more likely to use their cell phones as a "distraction device." Of those questioned, 73 percent of cell phone owners between the ages of 18 and 24 were likely to have used their phone to stay occupied during breaks or commercials while watching television, in the 30 days prior to the survey. The 25 to 34 age group saw 56 percent of its cohort using cell phones to stay occupied during breaks. Each subsequent age group sees descending participants. As many as 45 percent of respondents in the 35 to 44 age group pick up their cell phone between shows; 27 percent of those age 45 to 54; 16 percent of those 55 to 64; and 9 percent of those 65 and older.

African Americans are another subset of cell phone owners who pick up their cell phones to compliment TV viewing. Looking at the group of American adults in the survey, 59 percent of African Americans, compared to 50 percent of white counterparts, use their phones alongside the TV. Hispanics fall in between, 54 percent of the Hispanic segment use their phones to stay connected or look up information while they watch TV.

The sexes are equally balanced. The survey finds that 52 percent of men, and an equal 52 percent of women, use their phones while they watch TV.

Education and income plays a factor in cell phone usage in front of the TV. Higher incomes and higher education all make people more likely to use their cell phones while they sit on the couch in front of the TV. People who live in urban areas also use their cell phones as a companion to the TV in greater numbers. Fifty-four percent of urban residents, compared to 52 percent of suburban and 45 percent of rural residents pick up their phones instead of their remotes.