• 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

What is the World Economic Forum doing to improve digital intelligence in children?

The latest figures show that 56% of 8-12-year-olds across 29 countries are involved in at least one of the world's major cyber-risks: cyberbullying, video-game addiction, online sexual behaviour or meeting with strangers encountered on the web.

Using the Forum's platform to accelerate its work globally, #DQEveryChild, an initiative to increase the digital intelligence quotient (DQ) of children aged 8-12, has reduced cyber-risk exposure by 15%.

In March 2019, the DQ Global Standards Report 2019 was launched – the first attempt to define a global standard for digital literacy, skills and readiness across the education and technology sectors.

The 8 Digital Citizenship Skills every child needs
The 8 Digital Citizenship Skills every child needs
Image: DQ Institute

Our System Initiative on Shaping the Future of Media, Information and Entertainment has brought together key stakeholders to ensure better digital intelligence for children worldwide. Find our more about DQ Citizenship in our Impact Story.