UK families gather around their big-screen TV sets... and do their own thing

The rapid growth in usage of tablets and smartphones is turning us into a nation of multi-taskers according to a report by the UK telecoms regulator Ofcom. Although 91 percent of adults tune in to the main TV set in the lounge at least once a week, around 53 percent now access other media whilst watching television.

We're interacting with TV shows or sending off tweets and Facebook posts about them whilst we watch. We're also performing unrelated tasks like shopping and surfing the web whilst the TV is on. Most of this is done via smartphones, with 51 percent of adults now owning one compared to only 27 percent two years ago. Almost a quarter of households now own a tablet computer too.

The results do show something of a television fightback, however. Although most homes now have at least three devices that can access the internet, increasingly we're reverting to having just one television. 41 percent of households only had one TV in 2012 compared to 35 percent in 2002. Those sets are getting bigger too with sales of 43-inch plus sets up 4.3 percent in the first quarter of 2013. What's more despite the wealth of catch up and recording options available, live TV accounted for 90 percent of viewing in 2012.

James Thickett, Ofcom’s Director of Research, says,

Our research shows that increasingly families are gathering in the living room to watch TV just as they were in the 1950s -- but now delivered on bigger, wider and more sophisticated sets. Unlike the 1950s family, however, they are also doing their own thing. They are tweeting about a TV show, surfing the net or watching different content altogether on a tablet.

Just a few years ago, we would be talking about last night's TV at work or at school. Now, we’re having those conversations live while watching TV -- using social media, text and instant messaging.

Television's role as babysitter is also threatened with three-quarters of parents saying that a tablet is a useful device for keeping children entertained. Of parents with a tablet 91 percent said their children either used it or had one of their own.

If you’re reading this on a tablet whilst watching live television on a big screen then do let us know in the comment thread -- if you can get your tablet back from the kids that is.

Photo Credit: Rashevskyi Viacheslav/Shutterstock

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