television, tv, watching tv

Teens Still Prefer TV Over Digital Tech

June 30, 2009 07:30 AM
by Liz Colville
At its annual “What Teens Want” Conference on June 25, Nielsen revealed that teenagers are more invested in traditional media than widely believed.

Television Still Leads the Way

Teens are “making time for both” traditional forms of media, specifically television, and newer forms, such as Twitter and text messaging, Nielsen said at its annual “What Teens Want” conference in New York City last week. In a report called “How Teens Use Media,” Nielsen, a leading market and consumer analysis company, concluded that organizations shouldn’t “get too caught up in the hype of digital media usage,” The Hollywood Reporter, which is owned by Nielsen, explained.

It is widely believed that teenagers are spending more time with digital media, including text messaging, video sites like YouTube and newer socially driven sites like Facebook and Twitter. But Nielsen throws out that theory, finding instead that teenagers “watch more TV than ever, with usage up 6% over the past five years in the U.S,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.

And they are not Internet addicts. On the contrary, teens are well below average in time spent on the Internet each month, according to the report. Teens spend “less than half of the 29 hours and 15 minutes” per month that the average user spends on the Internet, The Hollywood Reporter explained.

Teens’ favorite Web site (Google), TV genre (general drama) and TV show (“American Idol”) are similar to their parents’ and are aligned closely to those of other demographics. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Nielsen found that “[t]eens are unique, but they are not as bizarre and outlying as some might presume.”

Another scenario that many imagine is that teens like to consume more than one medium at a time, but Nielsen said this isn’t true, either. In fact, according to their report, this image is “grossly misrepresentative.” Teens are actually “more likely than adults to use their media one at a time.”

They may be watching more TV than ever, but American teens aren’t the world’s biggest couch potatoes, according to Nielsen; that title goes to South African and Indonesian teens.

Online video, meanwhile, has experienced “[t]orrid growth” among teenagers, Nielsen revealed, but the amount of online video teens watch still “lags behind” the amount that adults 18 to 44 watch.

Background: Internet, cell phones altering family life; What about reading?

A 2008 study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project painted a different picture than Nielsen’s report. Pew suggested that technology is allowing parents to create a “new connectedness” with their children, but old habits are dying off as a consequence.

Families “with multiple communication devices are somewhat less likely to eat dinner with other household members,” the report said. They are also more inclined to be dissatisfied with their “family and leisure time” than families with less technological possessions. Television watching, a group activity, is also being replaced in large numbers with Internet browsing, according to Pew.

While the Nielsen study addresses TV, it says little of reading, which is being transformed as newspapers become Web sites, paperbacks become e-readers and headlines become tweets.

Nielsen observed that one in four teenagers reads a newspaper every day. But as The New York Times reported last year, “On paper, text has a predetermined beginning, middle and end, where readers focus for a sustained period on one author’s vision. On the Internet, readers skate through cyberspace at will and, in effect, compose their own beginnings, middles and ends.”

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Recent Developments: Study says generations use Web differently

A March study released by the Pew Internet & American Life Project said that online, there are bigger differences between generations’ habits. “[Y]ounger users ages 12-28 embraced online apps that enable communicative, creative, and social uses,” MarketingVOX reported in an article on the study.

“Older users are more likely to engage in online activities that require capital, such as travel reservations and online banking,” it added. Read Pew’s study, “Generations Online in 2009,” via the Pew Research Center Web site.

Related Topic: “Beyond Facebook: How Will Today’s Students Use the Web of Tomorrow?”

At an Internet Week New York panel hosted by findingDulcinea in June, leaders from five student-centric Web startups gave their opinions on how teens really feel about digital media and how their companies are delivering valuable services and entertainment to teens and young adults.

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