By Jay Bemis | Advertising Systems Inc.
Ever since the advent of television and the proliferation of cartoons in the 1950s, American parents have worried about their offspring’s screen time and its effects on their vision. Those concerns have steadily amplified since, what with the eventual popularity of video games, movie streaming and such platforms as YouTube keeping younger generations glued to screens.
Zoom forward to today and what is the parental attitude about screen time — in the midst of a pandemic?
Well, Mom and Pop don’t care so much.
That’s the gist of at least two recent studies about screen time, with one poll by Ipsos and The Global Myopia (nearsightedness) Awareness Coalition saying that the proportion of kids ages 5-10 and 11-13 using electronic devices for more than 4 hours a day has more than doubled during the pandemic.
A second study, meanwhile, suggests that parents aren’t likely to demand less screen time once the pandemic is over.
The myopia awareness coalition study is from a group which has found that, after heredity, various types of screen time are perceived as the biggest contributing factors to nearsightedness.
That study says that among kids ages 14-17, particularly, the percentage of screen time of 4-plus hours per day has jumped from 32% pre-pandemic to 62% now that COVID-19 is part of everyone’s daily lives.
“For many families, the shift to distance learning, coupled with the scarcity of in-person gatherings, is turning digital usage into an all-day phenomenon,” says eMarketer in summing up that report’s findings.
As for whether screen time will be reduced post-pandemic, that’s unlikely, says a second report, which is a result of August-September polling by OnePoll for Smith Micro Software.
It found that seven in 10 parents of school-age kids declared themselves “helpless” to police screen time because their children “need to be online for school and their other options for entertainment and socialization are more limited than usual.”
Kids, of course, are loving this “new normal” while it lasts — and most likely continues for awhile.
The eMarketer folks cite a May survey by Roblox among 13-to-18s who follow that gaming platform on Twitter. Forty-four percent of the teens responding to that poll said they get more screen time for gaming “because my parents don’t care as much.”
A May survey for the 4-H Council by Harris Poll, meanwhile, found 13-to-19s confessing “or boasting” that they spent three-quarters of their waking hours using screens, eMarketer says.