When the coronavirus lockdowns started in March, kidstech firm SuperAwesome found that screen time was up 50%. Nearly a year later, that percentage hasn’t budged, according to new figures from the firm.
Why it matters: For most parents, pre-pandemic expectations around screen time are no longer realistic. The concern now has shifted from the number of hours in front of screens to the quality of screen time.
By the numbers: Six out of 10 parents say that before the pandemic, their children’s screen time topped out at three hours, according to data from Morning Consult. In August, seven out of 10 estimated their kids now spend at least four hours with screens.
- For younger kids, screen time is up even higher. A vast majority (75%) of kids age 3-9 say they have more screen time now than they did last year, per SuperAwesome, with 40% saying it’s “much more” and 35% saying it’s “a bit more.”
Axios spoke with more than a dozen parents of kids from different ages, states and socioeconomic backgrounds about screen time during the pandemic.
- For younger kids, more screen time may be a result of parents not feeling as comfortable letting small children play outside with neighborhood friends without supervision during the workday.
- For older kids, screen time has become a lifeline to socialization.
Parents with lower socioeconomic status often have fewer devices and subscription programming options to offer to children than richer parents, which also plays into their feelings on screen time.
- This is especially true for parents who can’t afford babysitters to monitor how their kids are spending their screen time at home.
The big picture: One theme from Axios’ conversations rang true across all families: not all screen time is the same.
- Time spent on screens for educational purposes, socializing with friends, family time or games that include physical activity are overwhelmingly considered more palatable to parents than recreational gaming and binge TV streaming.
- A majority of parents (62%) now see how devices can be used as educational tools, per Morning Consult. This is especially true given that many major gaming and media companies have added educational tools during the pandemic.
- More than half of parents (51%) view time spent listening to music, podcasts and other audio platforms much differently from time spent in front of screens such as televisions, computers and smartphones.