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He’s teasing you; nobody has two television sets.

This article was written by in Consumer. 17 comments.


That’s a line from one of my favorites movies, Back to the Future, during the scene where Marty McFly almost has dinner with his mother and grandparents. If there ever was a commentary on consumerism, this is near the top of my list:

Lorraine Baines: Our first television. Dad just picked it up today. Do you have a television?

Marty: Well, yeah, you know, we have… two of ‘em.

Milton: Wow! You must be rich!

The joke, of course, is that thirty years in Marty’s past, it’d be ridiculous to think that people could afford two televisions. And I think it was about a year after the movie came out that my sister and I both got a black-and-white set for Christmas. (That TV was cool, not just because it was mine, but because if I plugged in the Nintendo and set it to Channel 2, the TV became a police scanner. I am not making this up.) Having a TV in my room set me free from watching whatever my parents and sister wanted to watch. As the youngest, I finally had a little bit of power.

Now in 2010 and at age 34, I have all the power in the world, at least as far as TV is concerned. We hooked up a Mac Mini to a projector ($900 used), and we blast the image onto a $75 screen. We can watch anything online, anything in the iTunes store, anything on Netflix, etc. etc.

But I think I take it for granted that with the prevalence of DVRs and high bandwidth, each of us can watch whatever we want, whenever we want. I know objectively that’s not the case. Not everybody will elect for super-high bandwidth, or even a DVR from the cable company. Those things cost extra, and some people will undoubtedly find them to cost more than they’re worth.

That’s to say nothing of the fact that using a projector in your home is rare. People are much more likely to spring for one flat-panel TV in the main viewing area. But that begs the question: what do the kids use in their rooms? I’m especially curious to find out if they forgo traditional TVs entirely and just watch stuff on their computers.

So, if you wouldn’t mind helping me escape from the echo chamber of cutting-edge entertainment technology, could you help me with a little survey? Especially if you have kids in the house, I’d like to know the following:

If you do not see a survey above, click here.

Published or updated March 30, 2010. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Smithee formerly lived primarily on credit cards and the good will of his friends. He is a newbie to personal finance but quickly learning from his past mistakes. You can follow him on Twitter, where his user name is @SmitheeConsumer. View all articles by .

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Kyle

We had an old color tv with the analog knob to hook our Atari up to. But it didn’t work so well as a television because the antennae was horrible.

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avatar steveDH

Since we only have adults living here I can’t complete the survey as is, but after thinking about it a bit I just had to contribute. We have three adults, three TVs, three computers and one DVR. The interesting thing is that one of the TV’s isn’t hooked up to any form of TV. It’s just hooked to an XBox 360 and Wii. It’s where the grandkids go soon after they arrive. Kinda like that box of toy cars, building blocks, and dolls my grandparents had in the corner of their living room. They didn’t have two TVs either – I guess they weren’t rich. The more things change ……………..

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avatar Liz

I did your survey but wanted to add a few comments! My kids are 7 and 4, so they don’t have TVs in their bedrooms! We have a large TV (the main TV) in our family room, a projector in our basement, and a small flat panel TV in our bedroom. Sometimes the kids get to watch cartoons on our bedroom TV in the morning, but most of their TV is on the main TV so that they can watch their shows from the DVR or On Demand.

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avatar Stac

Like Liz, I wanted to comment that my 3 children (10, 5 and 4) do not have TV’s or computers in their room (although the 10 yr old has an ipod touch and, if he stands or sits near the front door, can pick up the neighbor’s wireless internet). We have 3 TV’s: a flatscreen (new at Christmas) in the main living room, the old (old!) tv in the basement and I have one in my bedroom. My children watch less than 1 hr of TV per day because it’s boring to them.

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avatar Meg

No kids here, either — or televisions. My husband and I both have laptops, though his is technically company owned, and then he has a desktop computer, too. We watch video online, mostly on my laptop.

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avatar Liz

Different Liz here. We have two “main” TVs — one in the living room, and one in the finished space in the basement. The vast majority of TV/Movie/Etc watching is on the living room TV, but if one of the kids (ages 7 and 9) is having a sleep over and sleeping in the basement, they’ll sometimes watch a movie down there before bed. There are no TVs in the house other than those (none in kitchen, bedrooms, etc).

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avatar ib

we don’t have kids in the home either, but you CAN take the survey — just leave the kid part blank in all fields.

we have too many tvs….
when the two of us combined households, we wound up with 4 tvs total (no cable). so when the digital change was implemented, out went the tiny black & white set (that was conveniently in the kitchen) — there were no outlets to use the converter box on it (for digital receiption). so, main/living room tv is biggest; smallest in extra bedroom/exercise room; mid size/biggesh in master bedroom, although neither of us watch on that one except occasionally. all 3 of them have vcr & dvd players.
we don’t really like to watch anything too long (in time length) on the computer if we can help it (worse for our eyes and smaller).

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avatar NJ

I have some questions for you. Do all kids have their own computers? At what ages do they get their own computer/tv? Are they allowed to use them unsupervised, in their rooms, watching whatever they want? What restrictions do you as responsible parents, place on viewing movies, tv, videos and internet? How do you enforce these restrictions when there is nearly limitless access available to children of all ages?
Your survey should go beyond the mere techy aspects of this topic.

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avatar RainyDaySaver

I was just saying to myself yesterday how ridiculous it is that we have four TVs. That’s what happens when you merge households — each had a main TV and a bedroom TV. Now, we have one in the living room, porch room, basement and bedroom. The best part? Only my husband really watches television.

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avatar H Lee D

We have one TV. Before we were married, I had no TV, and with very rare exception, I don’t watch it. There’s too much else to do!

We don’t have kids yet, but I don’t plan to let them have electronics in their rooms beyond a stereo and a phone. Computers and TVs in rooms that aren’t common rooms make for hermits.

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avatar stasi

you didnt leave an option for those of us without a TV or kids.
we watch DVDs on the computer and sometimes TV shows on hulu.

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avatar lurker

Two adults, no kids. One TV in the bedroom — a 13 inch Trinitron, somewhere between 25 and 28 years old, attached to a converter box. A DVD/VHS player is attached for playing movies; I don’t think we can record anymore, but I am not sure. No cable. We use it almost exclusively for watching videos borrowed from our (excellent) library, and for election returns.

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avatar Anca

Our tv also functions as the screen for one computer and there’s a DVR hooked up to the computer which can record multiple shows at once (though we have very few channels). It’s nice to be able to watch things like Hulu shows on a big tv screen.

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avatar cg

We have two TV’s: The big-ish flat-panel BF brought into the relationship is in the living room and the small CRT that I brought is sitting unplugged in one of the bedrooms (NOT our bedroom). We mostly just watch the news in the morning and occasionally date night is watching Comedy Central. We do have one computer hooked up to the TV, but it’s been turned off for a couple of weeks; we never got a good user-friendly set up for this one. I think we need a combo wireless keyboard and mouse (kind of like a laptop keyboard, with integrated touchpad, but for the computer TV), but haven’t found one I like and can justify the cost of.

Anyway, no kids, but I was thinking a good compromise for a kid’s computer is to give them a desktop without an internet connection. They could play games and maybe figure out how to program. This is how I learned how to program, actually! When I was in high school, I pulled my dad’s old crusty 386 out of the basement and learned BASIC on it I don’t know how many kids would go for that today, but for the nerdier sort, programming and/or taking it apart could lead to a future career!

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avatar Peter

We’ve got way too many TVs in our house.. Our main 50″ Plasma in our basement, a 37″ LCD in our living room and a 32″ LCD in our bedroom. We’ve also got a little 14″ in our guest bedroom/workout room. So that’s 4 TVs. Yikes.. We’ve got one DVR on the 50″ in the basement, although we also sometimes stream TV shows via hulu and other services to all of our TVS via either the Xbox or a laptop.

In addition to that we sometimes watch TV on either our desktop computer, or the laptop. That’s a lot of screens.

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avatar laura

it’s just me and my husband. We don’t have a tv, but we do have a projector. It displays an 80″ screen. I LOVE it. I will never go back to tv. We have an HDTV dongle and we have cable through the computer. Windows 7 records some shows. We HULU the rest. My husband will watch shows on his computer, too. I will only watch them on the media PC. But i’m getting an ipad when the 3G version comes out. I’ll probably take that to the bedroom and watch shows on it when i get it. We each have a desktop, and he has 2 laptops, a personal one and a work one. My desktop is a mac mini and his laptop is a Mac book pro. The media PC and his desktop are both regular PCs.

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avatar tigernicole86 ♦55 (Newbie)

I had a tv growing up and there were usually at least 2 in my house. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found I really don’t need it with my computer and the internet. My new roommate has bought a nice new tv which i watch sometimes when we’re doing a firefly marathon(yes, we’re sort of nerds).

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