Common Sense Media, a nonprofit dedicated to improving the lives of all kids and families, released a report in March about screen use by kids. The report highlighted that screen use in tweens was six times more in the past two years. The detailed information also pinpointed the increased screen use in 2021 than in the past four years. The organization believes that the pandemic is likely the primary reason. Consequently, isolation from friends, school, etc., during the pandemic significantly increased screen use by tweens and teens.
Furthermore, researchers wanted to find out if this increase in screen use can have any lasting impacts on children’s lives. Therefore, they focused on tweens and teens who spent time using digital devices besides attending online classes and doing homework. However, there were no significant changes in the overall media use patterns regarding types of devices. Thus, the amount of screen time spent doing non-school activities increased as the use of social media spread among younger age groups. In addition, the report states that platforms like TikTok have a vital role in contributing to this figure.
The use of media contributes to increasing screen time among kids
Online videos have created their place at the top of the younger generations’ media hierarchy. However, the top activities remain the same – online videos, gaming, and social media. Besides, media can impact these young humans both positively and negatively. For instance, Mike Robb, senior director of the research, states that vulnerable kids overuse media, contributing to mental health issues.
“It is important to identify and support those kids. But some kids use media to keep their mood up, connect with friends, or support their mental health, ” Robb says. Additionally, he notes that “we need to ensure that we are not reflexively demonizing all screen time.”
Reports on media use
Common Sense Media researchers found eight significant results compared to the last media use report before the pandemic in 2019.
- YouTube is the platform teens wouldn’t want to live without. It is the favorite media activity among boys and girls across all racial/ethnic groups and income levels.
- 38% of tweens (eight to 12 years) use social media now compared to 31% in 2019. Interestingly, 18% of tweens use it daily compared to 13% in 2019.
- Teens spend almost an hour and a half per day on social media without developing conflicting feelings. And although spending a lot of time on it, they do not particularly enjoy social media.
- Instagram (53%), Snapchat (49%), Facebook (30%), Discord (17%), and Twitter (16%) are the top five social media platforms teens use.
- Screen time of boys among tweens and teens is more than girls. Black and Hispanic/Latino kids’ screen time is more than White kids. Kids belonging to lower-income households have more screen time than those of higher-income homes.
- Screen time use among kids increased substantially more overall through the pandemic than before 2019.
- Almost half of the teens listen to podcasts at least once a week. In addition, they engage with various media types, including those based on the spoken word.
- Many Black, Hispanic/Latino, and lower-income households’ children do not have a computer at home.
The result of the research
The increase in screen time over the past two years compared to four years before the pandemic was alarming. For instance, from 2015 to 2019, it increased only three percent among tweens and 11% among teens. But, from 2019 to 2021, it boosted to 20% among both tweens and teens. Unfortunately, that is around six times more than the increase before the pandemic among tweens alone.
“What kids do with media is as important as how much time they spend with media,” Robb says. If kids use it to socialize with friends and express themselves, there is no need to worry. However, if it replaces those activities, it is a cause for worry.
The researchers concluded that due to the vast amount of time kids spend on media, it is crucial to develop shows, games, apps, and books that engage, inspire, and provide positive representations.