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Most Teens Have In-Room Entertainment

by Linda Lyons

If parents still send misbehaving teens to their rooms, it's probably not much of a punishment for most of them. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of U.S. teens (aged 13 to 17) have televisions in their bedrooms to keep them company, according to a new Gallup Youth Survey*. And 28% 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% of teens told Gallup they'd watched television the day before. Since 1984, 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.

TV and Gender

Seventy percent of boys have their own sets in their rooms, compared with 58% 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.

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. In the open-ended question, 36% of boys said their favorite way to spend an evening was watching television shows, movies, or sports, or playing a video game. Just 17% of girls were happy to sit and do the same. By comparison, a plurality of girls (43%) said their favorite thing to do is to "hang out with friends and family" in the evenings, while just 26% of boys agreed (see "How Do Teens Unwind?" in Related Items).

Hours in Front of the Television

Teens average watching 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.

There is not 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.

Fewer Teens Have a Personal Computer

Home computers haven't yet reached the saturation point that televisions have -- probably because they are more expensive -- which may partly explain why only 28% 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. A Kaiser Family Foundation study found that 7 in 10 teens aged 15 to 17 say they have accidentally come across pornography on the Internet, including 23% who say this happens "very" or "somewhat" often.

Bottom Line

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. The National Institute on Media and the Family offers advice about television that applies equally well to computers: "Keep TV out of kids' bedrooms. Having a TV in a child's room discourages participation in family activities and encourages them to watch TV when they could be studying, reading or sleeping."

*These results are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,028 teenagers  in the Gallup Poll Panel of households , aged 13 to 17, conducted Jan. 17 to Feb. 6, 2005. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is ±3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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