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updated 11/13/2012 4:53:03 PM ET 2012-11-13T21:53:03

The average amount of time Americans spend watching  TV  hasn't changed much over the past four years. We spend about five hours on average each day in front of the TV, and 80 percent of that is live television. However, one screen is no longer enough.

Today, close to 40 percent of Americans use their tablets or smartphones while watching TV, according to Nielsen's latest cross-platform report.

But it's not just the younger generation that likes to multitask — viewers between the ages of 25 and 34, as well as viewers ages 55 to 64, are most likely to use a tablet while watching TV.  Smartphones  are the device of choice among 18- to 24 year-olds.

Nielsen also looked at what people are doing on their second screens — large and small. Email was the most popular activity for young and old, men and women alike. More than half of every user group in Nielsen's study checked their  email  while watching TV. Nearly one-third of viewers checked sports scores, but men did this twice as frequently as women.

Smartphone users tended to do more shopping and social networking, while tablet users were more likely to look up information related to a show they were watching.

Used with a TV, tablets and smartphones are proving to be new, novel and potentially necessary utilities, Nielsen said. But at what cost? A study conducted in 2008 by Lloyds TSB insurance found that attention spans had dropped from 12 minutes to just 5 over the past decade, which was attributed to an increase in gadget use. Are multiple devices filling the gaps left by our wandering minds?

© 2012 TechNewsDaily

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