You have probably heard the terms "Nielsen Family" or "Nielsen Ratings." Nielsen TV Ratings is part of a larger company called Nielsen Media Research, which tracks and studies media trends, especially the television watching habits (but also other media-related habits) of U.S. citizens. Nielsen Media Research has been in business for more than five decades.

Be aware that you cannot sign up your family to become a Nielsen Family. You must wait for Nielsen Media Research to contact you, because the company always chooses a purely random, computer-generated sampling of families from each community throughout the United States. Be aware, therefore, that any American family could be contacted at any time to become a Nielsen family. If you do happen to hear from Nielson Media Research inviting you and your family members to become a Nielsen family (or even if you are just interested in the general subject of media research), this article contains information about what happens when people agree to become Nielsen Families.

If you and your family members are asked to become a Nielsen family, be aware that you may be required to keep a diary about your television watching habits. You may also be asked to have a television meter in your house to track your television watching. Or you could simply be asked to participate in a phone or an "in person" interview about your television watching habits.

Be aware that if people from Nielsen Media Research get in touch with you by phone, they will always identify themselves as such. Nielsen invites people who have any doubts, or who may be wondering whether or not they are being targeted in a scam, to call their toll-free number to obtain the appropriate verification.

On occasion, an employee of Nielsen Media Research will visit Nielsen families at home. Know that home visitors from Nielsen Media Research will always carry the appropriate identification with them. Your truthful and detailed participation in their media surveys is always greatly appreciated.

If you have been contacted by someone from Nielsen Media Research and you are thinking about signing your family up to be a Nielsen family but you are concerned that they might sell or give out your personal information to other companies, know that they have an official policy of never distributing the personal information of Nielsen families to anyone for any reason. For more information about Nielsen Media Research, Nielsen families, and the general topic of media research, visit their website: