Beware the Second Screen

As more producers contemplate adding simultaneous second screen experiences to their kids TV shows, it's important to understand how handheld devices are actually used while watching television.
June 26, 2013

As more producers contemplate adding simultaneous second screen experiences to their kids TV shows, it’s important to understand how handheld devices are used while watching television.

Nielsen recently released a report that shows what adults do on their tablets and phones while watching TV. About 70% of the time it’s surfing the web – a casual distraction that may have nothing to do with the show on TV. Only 20% read comments about the show they’re watching. Even fewer write blurbs about the program.

So what about the kids demographic? Right now, research about how kids use mobile devices while watching TV is mostly anecdotal, but since adults use the second screen for casual distraction, and many kids go online to play games as a distraction, a natural second screen extension is a game… right?

Well, think of it this way – what happened the last time you directed a question towards a kid who was playing a videogame? Silence? A grunt of acknowledgment with no eye contact? Thought so. Do you think this same kind will play a game and watch TV at the same time? Maybe it doesn’t matter so long as they’re engaged with your IP? Or maybe it does?

Also consider how many parents would allow their child to play with a tablet or phone if they’re already watching TV – and what would it take to convince the gatekeepers that your second screen activity is worth handing over their (expensive) touch-screen device to a sticky fingered youngster?

And what about those kids who don’t have access to the second screen – will they miss out?

Many producers and digital executives (such as myself) have figured out fun and creative ways to engage their kid audience simultaneously on more than one screen.  If you’re going to go that route, consider the questions I asked here to help create a second screen activity that considers how kids may use mobiles rather than force-feeding an unnatural experience just so you can tick that second screen box.

Need help figuring this out? Lianne Stewart is available as a consultant on this and many other digital quandaries. Reach out to her on, LinkedIn or Twitter @liannestewart

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