Is Second-Screening Killing Your TV Viewing Experience?

Second screen

Second-Screening. An estimated 76% of us do it. We’re watching one program on TV, while surfing Facebook or Reddit on our phone or laptop. Whether or not you’ve ever thought to give it a name, you’ve probably simultaneously consumed two or more sources of media in this fashion. But if we’re to believe occasional reports from news outlets on the internet, second-screening is dangerous, even harmful! Let’s take a look at this behaviour and decide whether we think it’s a scourge, or no big deal. 

Second-Screening the Right Way

If you’ve ever had an anxious thought about “screen time”, the idea of viewing two screens at the same time probably sets off mental alarm bells. However, we think that there are times when second-screening is very appropriate. 

For example, if you’re chilling out with your significant other, and you aren’t particularly interested in what’s on TV, it might be entirely appropriate to play a casual game such as Zynga’s Words With Friends or one of Lucky Pants Bingo slots such as Deal or No Deal on your phone. Mobile games like this are a pleasant way to spend time while enjoying the company of someone you love. Sometimes it can be nice to cuddle with someone you care about without having to be “on”. 

Second-screening can also be a way of getting news efficiently. Let’s say you’re watching breaking news on cable, while looking for other sides of the story on your favourite message board. This way you can get the information you need much faster, while also getting more than one side of a single story. 

Obviously, a second screen can also give you the chance to communicate with people not present while enjoying TV. We don’t recommend texting in a cinema, but this kind of second-screening is usually appropriate in other settings. 

Family screen time

“Family Screen Time” – Thad Cochrane via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Second-Screening the Wrong Way

Second-screening can also be used to go into a mental “Dead Zone” that may or may not be healthy. Used this way, the behaviour can flood the mind with content, without one actually engaging with any single aspect with focus or intention. We all need to zone out from time to time, but spending too much time in this mental space can turn you into a zombie. 

Our worlds are now filled with screens, and they tend to take up our time anytime we’re awake. The average person spends 12 hours per day in front of TV, computer, and smartphone screens (yikes!). While not inherently bad, many of us wish to reduce the time we spent on screens. 

An excellent method to accomplish this is not to allow screens in the bedroom. Instead, read a book (or just go to sleep). Bright screens can affect the quality of our sleep, and can motivate us to stay up later, glued to the TV and the phone in our hand at the very same time. 

At the end of the day, what and how you view content is your choice, and your mileage will certainly vary. If you want to cut down on second-screening, start by eliminating harmful behaviours. The rest is likely no big deal.