Need more hours in the day?

Ask any busy parent what she needs most, and she’ll likely tell you an extra hour or two in the day would be her first wish. (That is, of course, assuming that her wish isn’t to ditch her family and/or job and run off to the topics with the gardener.)

But according to a new study, most parents have already gotten that wish and then some… sort of. The data indicate that “the simultaneous use of several technologies is allowing families to cram in 43 hours worth of activity from one sunrise to the next.”

I’m not sure what to make of this, personally, as it seems to me that doing 43 hours worth of activities in 24 hours is patently impossible, much like trying to build a particular Lego vehicle a second time after the first incarnation was dismantled bit by bit throughout the entire house. But this is scientific data, and if ever there was proof of multi-tasking efficacy (“Sure, I can help you with your homework while I balance my checkbook”), this is it, I suppose.

Here’s where it gets interesting:

On average, families said they spent 3.6 hours per day using the Internet, 2.5 hours daily watching television and one hour on instant messaging. Smaller increments of time were spent playing video games, listening to the radio and to digital music players, reading newspapers and Internet blogs, as well as doing household chores.

In the United States, families on average owned about 12 technology and media-related devices. Across the survey 70 percent of respondents said technology allowed them to stay in touch with family members.

What did our generation fill the Internet and instant messaging time periods with, when we were young? Did we do fewer things at once, or just do wild and crazy things like, I don’t know, play games and talk with our families?

Nearly one-third of parents questioned said they use mobile phones to check in with their children throughout the day while a quarter of them claimed that instant messaging improved relationships with their offspring.

Oh, I instant message with my children all the time. I don’t know that it’s improving our relationships, though. I’ll say, “Set the table, please,” and my daughter will say something like “in a minute” or “I will when I’m done” and I’ll give her the Mother Look and say “You will do it this instant,” and then the table gets set. Maybe that’s not what they meant.

Real-time communication also means that children are more involved in family decision-making, from travel plans to major product purchases, bolstering the idea that advertisers need to figure out more closely who in the home could influence a particular shopping trip.

As much as I dislike most television commercials targeted towards our children, I have fond memories of similar advertising from when I was a kid. I’m not sure I believe that marketing to other family members is a new thing. Certainly the marketing world has long known that there is no greater force than a child pining for a certain toy.

Maybe it’s just that, now, they figure we’re all so busy on our computers, cell phones and other gadgets, maybe Junior’s whims will be met more often. Or they know that when Mom and Dad don’t give in (perhaps because they’re so exhausted from cramming 1.8 days worth of stuff into every day), the kids can just hop on the internet and do their own ordering. Hmmmmm.

I need to think on this some more. Just as soon as I finish eating my breakfast, checking my mail, packing lunches, doing laundry, and returning a few phone calls.

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