We are in a digital age… so the increasing amount of time spent using technology isn’t necessarily shocking. But, a new survey by MyVision shows surprising findings about just how big that increase has been. Of nearly 1,000 parents and guardians surveyed, 59% of them say they’re worried about the amount of screen time their kids use.
Let’s start at the source of the rise in screen time. Most respondents believe that the onset of the pandemic in March 2020 is when screen time for kids began to drastically increase, and 68% of parents have noticed that time spent in front of screens. It might not end anytime soon, as more than 1 in 10 say they believe their kid’s screen time will continue to increase over the next year.
And it wasn’t just screen time for kids, 59% of parents say their own screen time increased since the start of the pandemic.
Most parents (48%) believe their child should be in front of a screen for 2 hours or less each day. But how long do most kids actually spend looking at a screen? Well, the survey shows that 78% of respondents estimate their children are looking at screens for 3 or more hours every day. In a smaller but more extreme category, 1 out of 10 parents (7%) estimates their child spends 9 or more hours using a tech device and looking at screens.
When comparing the hours of screen time parents allow versus the recommended screen time by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), they certainly don’t align. Most parents (nearly 80%) admit they do not know the AAP recommendations. AAP also gives suggested age benchmarks for screen time. They recommend children between the ages of 2 and 5 should have an hour or less each day. Kids under 2 should not be spending any time on technology, with the one exception being video calling.
The survey shows the age a child is introduced to regular screen time is lowering. 74% of parents say they let their child use a device when they are 5 years old or younger. Almost 1 in 4 parents are introducing their kids to tech by the time they are 1 year old.
The cause for concern over the amount of screen time children are getting can likely be credited, in part, to the fact that most children have a device that’s just for them. The survey shows 82% of children have a device of their own to use. While 21% of that number comes from a device that’s been issued to a child by their school, looking at which devices are used the most can give parents a bigger picture of what screen time is being spent.
Why are kids using these devices? Over 90% of kids are in front of a screen for entertainment. To break it down specifically, streaming services, watching TV, or watching movies received 91%. Other reasons kids are using technology include playing games (86%), homework (57%), classes or education (48%), and messaging their friends (46%).
Whether it’s to watch the latest Disney release or to catch up with friends, the amount of time children are spending locked on a screen is creating concern about addiction. Even though 74% of parents say they monitor their children’s screen time, nearly half (49%) of parents still believe their child has a screen addiction. This is where 62% of parents feel their own usage of technology impacts their children, with 72% of that number saying that impact is a negative one.
51% of parents say they feel guilty about the amount of time they spend on a device. While 65% say they don’t keep track of their own screen time, 82% at least have rules in place that limit when, where, and how their children are using their tech devices.
A common reason parents allow their children to use technology seems to be based on the environment they’re in and the kind of behavior that’s needed at that time. Nearly half say they give their child a device to use in order to keep them distracted or quiet. This explains why parents and guardians are letting their children look at screens while they’re driving or eating out at a restaurant. Public settings and getting tasks done, like appointments, flights/other public transportation, shopping, and doing chores, are also top reasons parents give their child tech devices. Only 36% of parents say they never give devices to distract their child.
The number of parents concerned over screen time usage can incite the overall belief that technology and children are not a good combo. But that’s not necessarily the case. Most parents (70%) believe there are benefits to introducing their children to technology early on. Some of those reasons include adapting to tech quickly, educational purposes through apps and programs, enhancing motor skills, and communicating.
On the flip side, 49% believe screen time has an impact on their child’s overall health. The disadvantages that parents worry about include exposure to something inappropriate, addition to screen time, hindering social skills and hurting their eye health.
For most, using technology is inevitable. Learning how children are using devices and the purposes behind that can at least help better understand the trends in usage. Yes, the majority of parents say they have concerns over the amount of time spent using technology. But the data shows most parents do monitor screen time and they believe there are positive aspects to gain from usage. The big picture proves technology is here to stay and that brings both negative and positive aspects.
So, if there’s a final point parents can take away from this survey, it’s that they have a greater influence on their children’s habits than they may realize. The data can show parents how they can take control over the amount of screen time their child gets and the purpose behind usage.
You can check out the full study here.