More than half of Americans fiddle with phones while watching TV


Internet users are in need of constant stimulation. We’ll pay games on our smartphones when we’re waiting for the train, check our email while we’re walking to work, and according to research by The Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, 52 percent of adult cellphone owners will supplement their television watching with their phone.

The study, titled “The Rise of the Connected Viewer,” discovered that cell phone owners use the device during television commercial breaks (38 percent), to corroborate a fact or news that they’ve just heard on television (22 percent), and vote for a reality show contestants (6 percent).

Of the 57 percent who have downloaded apps, use the Internet or email on their phones, the report found that 35 percent of users read what other people were saying online (20 percent of all cell-phone owners), 20 percent post comments (11 percent of all cell owners), and 19 percent communicated with friends via text message (11 percent of all cell owners). Interestingly enough, 29 percent of cellphone owners used their phones specifically to text friends who were watching the same program.

smartphone owners lead the way in connected viewing

Collectively, this data sums up to 52 percent of all adult cellphone owners who have participated in one of the aforementioned activities with their phones while watching television.

The study had also found that cell phone owners with a $50,000 household income were more inclined to use their phones while watching television than those with a lower annual household income. In addition, cell phone owners with some college experience were more likely to use their phones than those who didn’t graduate from high school.

Not surprisingly, the youngest recorded demographic exhibited the highest use of their cellphone while watching TV. Among the  18-to-24 age group, 81 percent of viewers used their phones while watching TV, followed by the 25-to-34 age group with 72 percent of users.

pew study who uses their cell phone while watching tv

Clearly, there’s value in the business of offering supplemental information during television programming, and many content companies are catching on. For example, HBO Go has an app that enables Game of Thrones audiences to keep track of the locations where the scenes are taking place within the fantasy world. Microsoft ‘s SmartGlass initiative will bring similar capabilities to the Xbox, for both gaming and TV.

Do you use your phone while watching TV? If you do, what do you use it for?