*The following is excerpted from an online article posted on StudyFinds.
There’s little doubt remote learning and child care issues are pushing more parents to rely on screens to keep their children preoccupied during COVID-19. For lower-income families, however, a new study finds screen time is reaching a concerning level among younger children. Researchers from The Ohio State University say kindergartners from low-income families are spending over six hours a day looking at smartphones, tablets, and other digital screens during the pandemic.
The study, conducted during the early months of the crisis in 2020, notes this is nearly double the screen time average for youngsters prior to COVID. Researchers say parents and caregivers in low-income households have faced more challenges managing the time their children spend watching television and using smartphones with daycare centers shut down.
Researchers surveyed 151 low-income Ohio caregivers with kindergartners between May 1 and June 30, 2020. The group responded to 12 questions examining their child’s media use during the early days of the pandemic; including both weekday and weekend usage. Study authors note media use includes any activity involving video, such as watching television, movies, shorter clips on a digital device, or using apps and games on electronic gadgets.
During this two-month period, results reveal young children spent 6.6 hours a day using screens. However, unlike previous studies, researchers discovered kindergartners spent more time using media on weekdays (6.8 hours) than on the weekends (5.8 hours).
“That suggests parents might have been using media as a substitute for the time their children would have been spending in some type of child care that was closed because of the pandemic,” said Rebecca Dore, lead author and senior research associate at OSU’s Crane Center for Early Childhood Research and Policy, in a university release.
While taking classes online would seem like a likely cause, the study finds remote learning is not driving the increase in screen time by young kids.
So what is driving up the use of digital screens during COVID? Forty-seven percent of low-income families said their kids are turning to screens more often for entertainment during the pandemic. Another 45 percent said more screen time helped to occupy their child’s time.