Whether we like it or not, kids love screens. Over the past decade, even the most resistant parents have seen their children increase their daily screen time, whether for entertainment, school, or both. Technology has infiltrated our lives so fully that parents are struggling with figuring out how much screen time is too much.
Even before the pandemic, modern children were using technology for many hours a day. One study from Common Sense Media revealed that eight to twelve-year-olds in the United States spend about five hours a day using screens just for entertainment. Younger children had about half that amount of screen time, while teens clocked around seven hours per day—and remember, that’s not including all the time spent using screens for schoolwork!
With those numbers in mind, how have things changed? How has the pandemic influenced the way our children rely on technology? Here’s what we know.
Shifts in Technology Usage
When the world shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, parents and educators had to scramble and figure out how to keep kids safe and learning during the stress and isolation of a lockdown. Technology played a key role in that shift, with the majority of American school-age children participating in remote, online learning.
Obviously, this translated to more screen time for school-related activities, including Zoom classes, online homework, and school-related research. But it also left millions of kids stranded at home without access to their normal extracurricular activities, friends, and family activities.
It’s not surprising that kids would turn to their devices under these circumstances. Children doubled their internet usage during the beginning of the pandemic and passed the time by watching TV and online videos, playing games, and using social media.
Tech: for School, Socialization, and Relaxation
When it became unsafe to interact with the outside world in person, adults and kids alike turned to their devices for learning, socialization, and entertainment. In a world driven by the pandemic, tech serves all these purposes and acts as a lifeline.
Parents can’t micromanage their children’s screen time as much as they used to for the simple fact that it’s difficult to tell where technology use for learning ends and mindless scrolling begins. Families are stretched thin, and it’s not realistic for parents to be looking over their children’s shoulders constantly. And let’s face it, technology can keep kids busy for hours, which helps out stressed parents who are working from home.
The pandemic has been extremely stressful for people of all ages across the globe. Kids isolated from friends and family often use technology as an escape and the only means of connection they have. Understandably, most parents are reluctant to limit that lifeline—but by this time, most people know that excessive screen time can be harmful.
Tech’s Impact on Children’s Development
Some children have adapted well to online learning and the realities of the pandemic, while others have struggled. Technology plays a key role in a child’s life these days, but there are still lots of questions about how it impacts children’s development. Those questions may not be answered for many years to come.
What is clear is that remote learning is having a negative impact on some students’ learning. It is very difficult to keep students engaged remotely, which impacts learning, retention, and connection. Other concerns are inadequate access to technology for many families which is causing some students to fall behind, and social isolation. Kids aren’t in school and around their peers, which could be affecting their social and emotional development.
How to Get Your Kids Outside & Active
Too much screen time can have a negative impact on a child’s physical and mental health. Despite the limitations of the pandemic, we know that getting outside and active is important for children’s well-being, health, and development. It isn’t always easy getting kids away from their screens and outside, but there are ways you can encourage them.
One of the best ways to get your kids moving is to be active with them. Don’t just tell them to go outside, take a hike together or do yoga out in the yard. Carve out time for fresh air. Get creative—consider learning a new skill together like dance or a fun and interesting sport.
In a world still shaped by the pandemic, it can be hard to tear our kids and ourselves away from the screen, especially when time is limited. But by prioritizing other activities, you can help your family through the pandemic and improve your kids’ well-being.