A Room With A View: TVs Still Beat PCs In Kids Bedrooms

More than ever, parents who send misbehaving teens to their rooms would do better to send them to an arcade or an Internet cafe: at least at those places, the kids actually have to shell out their own money, as a new survey from Gallup points out that nearly two-thirds--64 percent--of U.S. teens ages 13 to 17 have televisions in their bedrooms, and 28 percent say they have a computer with Internet access in their rooms.

That a high percentage of teens have--and would want to have--televisions in their rooms may not be surprising, given the prevalence of television viewing among teens. In 2004, 90 percent of teens told Gallup they’d watched television the day before. Since 1984, a Gallup spokesman said, television watching has consistently topped the list of activities teens said they had done the previous day. And with the rise of niche market programming--some cable companies offer more than 100 channels to satisfy every possible taste--parents may deem multiple sets in a household necessary just to keep the peace, the survey respondents indicated.

The survey was based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,028 teenagers in the Gallup Poll Panel of households, ages 13 to 17, and was conducted from Jan. 17 to Feb. 6.

In terms of gender, 70 percent of boys have their own sets in their rooms, compared with 58 percent of girls. And boys devote a little more time to television watching than girls do: Boys average 15 hours in front of the tube, while girls average about 12 hours a week, the survey found.

“When last asked about their favorite way to spend an evening, boys reported being far happier than girls reported to spend it in front of a TV screen," the spokesman said. In the open-ended question, 36 percent of boys said their favorite way to spend an evening was watching television shows, movies, or sports, or playing a video game. Just 17 percent of girls were happy to sit and do the same. By comparison, a plurality of girls--43 percent--said their favorite thing to do is to “hang out with friends and family" in the evenings, while just 26 percent of boys agreed.

Overall, the survey found that on average, teens watch 13 hours of television each week, or about 2 hours a day.

“This would meet the maximum of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendations of no more than one to two hours of daily viewing," said Frank Newport, Gallup’s briefing editor. “There is not [as] much difference as one might think in viewing time between teens who have their own televisions and teens who don't. Teens who have televisions in their rooms average about 14 hours of watching each week, while teens who don't have televisions in their rooms average 12 hours a week."

Despite the seeming ubiquity of instant messaging, in what still must be a burst of good news for those following the Kids Television Upfront, home computers haven’t yet reached the saturation point that televisions have--probably because they are more expensive, Gallup says--which may partly explain why only 28 percent of teens say they have one in their rooms.

But in addition to the cost, it is possible that parents may be reluctant to allow a teen to have a computer in his or her room, given the possible dangers lurking on the Internet--pornography and online predators, for example.

Teens aren't totally unaware of these dangers, either. Gallup points to a Kaiser Family Foundation study that found that 7 in 10 teens ages 15 to 17 say they have accidentally come across pornography on the Internet, including 23 percent who say this happens “very" or “somewhat" often.

“Aside from the obvious reasons why parents may not want teens entertaining themselves in their own rooms--watching television instead of doing homework, the dangers of talking to strangers online, viewing inappropriate material through either medium, not getting enough sleep--some psychologists and researchers worry about a simpler problem: In-room entertainment may keep children from socializing with their families," Newport said.