During the pandemic, many children have spent more time at home, which can equate to more screen time. Researchers at Linköping University wanted to investigate what children between four and six years of age have been doing on their devices during this period, and whether their parents were involved.
“We often get stuck in a discussion about screen time and hours – but what does that actually mean? Yes, it can be a concern, but it’s really about what they do when they’re using their devices. And the same applies to us adults, actually”, says Annette Sundqvist, associate professor at the Child and Infant Lab at Linköping University. She studies how children’s development is affected by digital media.
Parental presence improves child learning on digital media
The study participants were 240 parents of children between four and six years of age. These parents assessed that their children’s screen time had increased during 2020 .
The parents estimated that their children played on a device three times as much as before the pandemic, on average 3.5 hours a week. And this was the activity where the parents’ engagement was the lowest: two of three parents didn’t take part when their child played. Anett Sundqvist, Associate Professor in Psychology Photo credit Anna Bäcklin Lindén
“Our previous studies showed that digital media can adversely affect the behaviour, language and memory of small children, but that this can be weighed up by the parents participating in the children’s activity. This study shows that children play digital games alone, often without their parents’ active participation. This could indicate that this digital activity does not support the child’s learning in the same way as an activity where a parent is actively involved”, says Annette Sundqvist.
The screen-based activity that increased the most for the children during the pandemic was the video call. These calls increased by 77 per cent, corresponding to one hour a week, on average.