Attitude Check

The time Americans devote to technology

Frank Newport Apr 12, 2012

David Brancaccio: Today, let’s look at what is affectionately known as “The Time Suck.” How much time we devote to technology is the subject of our weekly Attitude Check.

Frank Newport is editor-in-chief at the polling firm Gallup. He joins us every Thursday. Good morning Frank.

Frank Newport: Good morning David.

Brancaccio: So I’ve done a survey of one — me — and I’m using technology four hours a day, outside of work. Is that bizarre? Typical?

Newport: Well, what we know is, a lot of younger Americans are really worried about spending too much time using screens. That’s what we call them — that would be using their phones, smart phones, or using the Internet. In fact, we were really surprised at this; startling results. Almost six in ten 18-29 year olds told us that they feel guilty; they spent too much time using their cell phone or their smart phone. And they spend too much time using the Internet. Almost half said they spend too much time on social media sites such as Facebook.

Brancaccio: The question then becomes when the guilt then matures into doing something about it.

Newport: That’s absolutely the question. I was wondering: Are we going to have a backlash? Will we have young Americans saying, “Too much — I’ve got to stop.” We’re going to have screen-free days, and Silicon Valley going to collapse?

You know, in our research, we have asked people who smoke: Do you smoke too much? “Oh, absolutely, I shouldn’t be smoking at all; I should quit. We ask overweight people: Do you feel you should be losing weight? So a lot of people know they’re doing something that’s wrong, but whether or not they’re able to change this is the real question.

We don’t know if young people ultimately are going to stop looking at those screens so much — we just know that right now, they think they’re spending too much time doing it.

Brancaccio: Is there a split between genders here?

Newport: There really wasn’t much difference between me and women. There was a difference by education, which was interesting. In general, people aren’t as concerned about doing too much email. However, email is related to education. If you have a college degree or a post-graduate degree, that’s where you get higher and higher worrying about spending too much time on email. So education is a variable in there, but men and women look like they’re about the same in terms of worrying about spending too much time staring at those screen.

Brancaccio: So much guilt — call it the Guilted Age. Frank Newport is editor-in-chief at the polling firm Gallup. Thank you very much.

Newport: My pleasure.


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