The average American adult spends eight and a half hours a day in front of a screen, whether it’s on a computer, TV, mobile phone or other gadget. Users who spend the most time in front of a screen are those in the 45-54 age group, who dedicate nine and a half hours to this per day. These are the results of a new study by the Nielsen-funded Council for Research Excellence (CRE) and Ball State University’s Center for Media Design (CMD). TV is still the main media activity, followed in descending popularity by computers, radio and print media. The report finds that the average American spends 142.5 minutes daily in front of a computer, which is dwarfed by TV’s 353.1 minutes. PC users spend almost as much time working with software (46.1 minutes) as they do on the Web (48.8 minutes). The report doesn’t make clear if the software is installed on PCs or in the cloud.

The biggest computer users are those between the ages of 35 and 44, who spend a half-hour more than any other group in front of the computer, 199.3 minutes.

While the report doesn’t focus on social networking per se, you can see its influence, especially on younger users.

While those in the youngest age group, 18-24, spend the second-highest amount of time on the Internet (67 minutes), their email usage of 20.3 is significantly lower than the average of 37.4 minutes across all age groups, and is only higher than one group, adults 65 and over.

Since we’re in the middle of a paradigm shift in advertising, and are concerned that all the old models are breaking (or have broken) down, it’s fascinating to see CRE report that, despite DVR and channel-surfing, the average American adult watches 72 minutes of TV ads a day.

The CRE study is most interesting in its methodology and what it might have revealed about the accuracy of survey-based studies - it observed users and reported their actions at 10-second intervals, and found that users' habits were different than what the users themselves reported.

One of these findings flies in the face of most reports about the increases in computer video watching, as it found that the average American does this for a little over two minutes a day, or just a few seconds more than they text.

Of course, Ball State has admitted members of my own family as students, so you might want to question the intellectual standards of the institution behind the report, though they're surely higher than Purdue's. To this we should also add: Go IU!

By Mark Alvarez