Adolescents’ screen time doubles during pandemic to more than 7 hours a day
Adolescents reported an average of more than 7 hours per day of screen time during the pandemic — double what was predicted, according to a research letter published recently in JAMA Pediatrics.
Researchers summarized data from a survey of 5,412 adolescents aged 12 to 13 years old in May 2020.
“The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent stay-at-home mandates, online learning, and social distancing requirements have led to an increasing reliance on digital media (ie, screens) for nearly all facets of adolescents’ lives (eg, entertainment, socialization, education),” the researchers wrote. “Although studies conducted worldwide have suggested an increase in screen time among children and teens during the pandemic, this has not yet been explored using national U.S. data.”
Study participants self-reported daily hours spent on gaming, texting, social media, video chatting, browsing the internet and watching or streaming movies, videos or TV shows. The study excluded hours spent on school-related work.
The participants reported a mean total daily screen use of 7.7 hours — most of it spent gaming or watching or streaming movies, videos or TV shows — which was higher than a prepandemic estimate of 3.8 hours per day from the same cohort.
The researchers also assessed participants on mental health and resiliency factors and found that poorer mental health and greater perceived stress were associated with higher total screen use, whereas more social support and coping behaviors were associated with lower total screen use.
“Despite the gradual reversal of quarantine restrictions, studies have suggested that screen use may remain persistently elevated,” the authors wrote. “Although some screen modalities may be used to promote social connection, higher coping behaviors and social support in this sample were associated with lower total screen usage.”
The authors said future studies should examine screen use trends as pandemic restrictions are lifted.