According to an analysis published by JAMA Pediatrics Monday, the average daily screen time for children during the Covid-19 epidemic grew by more than one hour and twenty minutes.
Researchers analyzed screen time and device use between January 1, 2020, and March 5, 2022, by analyzing data from 46 studies covering nearly 30,000 children in different countries.
The average age of the children included in the study was 9.
The analysis showed that children’s average daily screen time increased 1.5 times during the period of the pandemic. This was from 162 minutes per day prior to the pandemic and 246 minutes after it.
Researchers wrote that “These findings should also be considered in conjunction with another meta-analysis suggesting that children engaged in moderate to vigorous exercise during the pandemic.” “Policy-relevant pandemic recovery planning should consider how to help children and adolescents less, and play more to meet the 24-hour movement guidelines.
The greatest increase in screen usage was observed in adolescents aged 12-18 years. This is because they were more likely to “own and use digital devices” than their younger counterparts, wrote researchers from the University of Calgary and Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute.
Researchers found that the average time spent on personal computers and handheld devices increased by 46 and 44 minutes per day, respectively.
The analysis stated that “this finding is consistent with the observation, which was that devices became a central part of daily life and interactions during the pandemic- namely, for work, schooling and learning—1 in 5 parents purchased new devices to their children, primarily handheld and computer-based devices.”
Researchers noted that the screen time context should be considered because many children moved to online schools during the pandemic. Screen time could have been increased for educational purposes. Some studies used retrospective estimates which could have led to parents misremembering how much screen time their children had before the pandemic.
The analysis found that screen time and stress levels of parents and caregivers during the pandemic were associated with screen usage.
The researchers concluded that while the screen time increase may have been temporary in some cases (e.g., when schools are closed), it could also be a sign of “sustained problematic” screen habits.
“The work of psychologists working with adolescents and children should be focused on encouraging healthy smartphone habits in youths. This could include monitoring and moderating daily use, selecting age-appropriate programs, and prioritizing time spent with friends and family. It is important to encourage youths to reflect on how they use screens. Researchers recommended that screen usage be discussed in conjunction with other vital daily functions such as sleep and exercise.