Americans devote more than 10 hours a day to screen time, and growing

Is any screen time OK?
Is any screen time OK?

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Story highlights

  • Americans spend almost 11 hours a day consuming media, a Nielsen report shows
  • Limiting screen time and other inactive behaviors may reduce obesity risk

(CNN)The average American spends nearly half a day staring at a screen.

A new Nielsen Company audience report reveals that adults in the United States devoted about 10 hours and 39 minutes each day to consuming media during the first quarter of this year.
The report, which was released Monday, included how much time we spend daily using our tablets, smartphones, personal computers, multimedia devices, video games, radios, DVDs, DVRs and TVs.
    "The overall results don't surprise me," said Steve Gortmaker, a professor of health sociology at Harvard University who was not involved in the report.
    "The number of devices we have proliferate the overall time spent with screens, and the number of devices is increasing," he added. "A lot of people have been thinking about how or whether this time spent is a good use of their time, which becomes a deep issue."
    The report reveals a dramatic one-hour increase over last year in how often the average American adult gorges on media in a day. During the same time period last year, Nielsen reported that people spent about nine hours and 39 minutes engaging with gadgets.
    This jump could be credited to the rise in smartphone and tablet usage, the report shows. Nielsen collects data on media consumption only, so time spent on a smartphone or tablet doing other things, from taking photos to texting, was not included in the report's data.
    About 81% of adults in the United States have smartphones, according to the report, which are used about one hour and 39 minutes daily on average to consume media.
    However, the report shows that despite the growing options of devices available to users, radio and television are still used the most. About 94% of adults have a HD television, and the average adult in the United States spends about 4½ hours a day watching shows and movies. Another key finding in the data shows that services for streaming or subscription video on demand, such as Netflix or Hulu, were in just as many households as a DVR.
    "We examine large trends in penetration, users and usage across all platforms, show how different demos and race/ethnicity groups spend their media time, and explore the contributions of heavy users," Glenn Enoch, Nielsen's senior vice president of audience insights, wrote in a letter accompanying the report.
    So, the report concluded that out of 168 hours in a week, we spend more than 50 with devices, said Douglas Gentile, professor of psychology at Iowa State University, who was not involved in the report but has studied how too much screen time affects children.
    "The work week still takes up 40 of those hours, sleep at seven hours a night is 49, and if we assume all personal care -- such as eating, bathing, dressing, preparing food -- is three hours a day, then we have 58 hours a week left over for all other things," Gentile said.
    "This includes hobbies, sports, spending time with children, spending time with friends and romantic partners, reading, learning, exercise, participating in a faith community, volunteer work, house maintenance," he added. "If people are spending over 50 hours a week with media for entertainment purposes, then there's really no time left for any of the other things we value."
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    Too much screen time and other inactive behaviors also have been linked to obesity risk, especially in children. In May, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report showing that Americans are facing rising rates of obesity and diabetes.
    If families would like to limit their screen time, Gortmaker suggested beginning with limiting the number of devices they encounter daily.
    "Throw out those extra screens, and don't put one in your bedroom," he said. "Learn to shut down the iPads and smartphones before you go to sleep and limit the use. Certainly, we need these devices, but try giving yourself a break."