Industries in Depth

How has the pandemic affected children's screen time?

More US parents are concerned about their child's screen time since the pandemic began.

More US parents are concerned about their child's screen time since the pandemic began. Image: Unsplash/Ludovic Toinel

Martin Armstrong
Data Journalist, Statista
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  • Screen time increased for many children during the pandemic as parents struggled to juggle work and childcare demands during lockdowns.
  • US parents already thought their children spent too long in front of screens before COVID-19, but even more now feel this way, Pew Research Center surveys show.
  • Around a third believed their children had too much time playing video games or using a smartphone in March 2020, but this has increased to 51 percent and 42 percent, respectively.

With schools and daycare closed during significant periods of the pandemic, a lot of parents were faced with the daunting task of performing adequately for their employers while at the same time keeping their young children entertained and looked after. An impossible task, but one which for many parents was made easier - especially during Zoom meetings - by putting their kids in front of a screen of some variety. For most parents this was a 'lesser of two evils' situation, where having bored, irate kids full of energy but with no time to dedicate to them was less desirable than increasing their daily digital input - something which most families try to keep to a minimum in normal circumstances.

Increased screen time during the pandemic

As a series of surveys by Pew Research Center reveals, around 30 percent of parents with children under the age of 11 in March 2020 already said that their kids were spending too much time playing video games or using a smartphone. When the same parents were asked again in April 2021 though, this had increased to 51 and 42 percent, respectively.

51% of U.S. parents of children under 11 think their child has a high screen time, as they play video games for too long.
51% of U.S. parents of children under 11 think their child has a high screen time, as they play video games for too long. Image: Statista
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