Thursday, October 24, 2013

"What Are We Not Doing When We're Online"

That is the provocative title of a study by Scott Wallsten of the Technology Policy Institute, which examines how much time Americans spend in "computer use for leisure" and what they're not doing because they're online. He has answers.

Using the American Time Use Survey (ATUS), which collects data on how a representative sample of Americans aged 15 or older spent their time, minute-by-minute, in the previous 24 hours, Wallsten calculates how online time correlates with time spent in other activities. He does this using the ATUS category "computer use for leisure," which excludes activities such as emailing, gaming, watching television and videos, reading, and working—all of which are coded under separate categories. What that leaves, then, is social networking, web surfing, and search. Americans are spending a growing amount of time in those activities. In 2011, the average person spent 13 minutes a day engaged in "computer use for leisure," or 4 percent of leisure time. That doesn't sound like much because it's an average. In fact, those who spend any amount of leisure time online devote roughly 100 minutes a day to the activity, says Wallsten, which is about one-third of their leisure time. And that means they aren't doing something else.

So what aren't they doing while online? They aren't watching television, for one. Online time has the biggest negative impact on time spent watching television and videos. The second largest negative impact is on socializing in traditional ways. Online leisure time also reduces time spent working, participating in educational activities, and sleeping.

Source: National Bureau of Economic Research, What Are We Not Doing When We're Online, Scott Wallsten, NBER Working Paper 19549, ($5)

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