TECH
10/13/2011 06:48 pm ET Updated Dec 13, 2011

What We're Really Watching When We Watch TV: Our Email Accounts

So much for must-see TV.

Forty percent of tablet and smartphone owners said they regularly use their mobile devices while watching television, according to a survey conducted by Nielsen.

These multitasking users are tuning out both programs and commercials to focus on their gadgets, with email topping social networking sites as the most common distraction.

Sixty percent of tablet and smartphone owners said they regularly check email during a TV program, nearly the same proportion (59 percent) who said they do so during commercial breaks. Forty-two percent of Nielsen's respondents said they peruse social networking sites during both TV shows and advertisements.

Search is also a popular pastime, and Nielsen found that 46 percent and 45 percent of users "surfed for unrelated info" during programming and commercials. Less than a third searched for information related to the TV show or ads they saw.

eReader owners were less inclined to multitask: whereas 42 percent of tablet owners and 40 percent of smartphone owners will use their devices while watching television on a daily basis, just 14 percent of ereader owners do the same. A Staples Advantage survey found that tablet users were also inclined to use the devices in the bathroom.

Another Nielsen study shed light on who's chatting about television shows on social media sites and what topics they're discussing online.

Though women make up just over half of all social media users (the population is 55 percent female and 45 percent male, according to Nielsen), men account for 55 percent of all users discussing TV on social networks.

Viewers chatting about programs online are most likely to talk about "winning" (14 percent), "entertaining" (11 percent), and things that are "funny" (10 percent).