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Pandemic stress causes jump in screen time

New data from Childwise shows kids are coping with the pandemic by streaming shows and sharing TikToks.
January 28, 2021

If you feel like your screen time has been out of control lately, you’re not alone. And according to the “2021 Childwise Monitor Report,” kids are spending even more time online—up to 3.8 hours a day from 3.4 hours last year.

The biggest increase was among 11- to 12-year-olds, who are now spending 4.2 hours a day online (compared to 3.3 hours previously). The number of kids with internet access in their bedrooms has also grown by 3% since the 2020 report was published, from 80% to 83%.

A whopping 73% of kids—and half of all five- to 10-year-olds—now own a mobile phone. These figures have increased exponentially for the second consecutive year, and that growth rate equals the previous peak recorded in 2008.

Today’s kids spend 3.3 hours a day watching video content (up from 2.9 hours last year). Nearly half of the survey group (46%) said the majority of their viewing happens on-demand—and, in particular, on Netflix (up to 79% from 67%). TV viewing is on the decline among the seven to 16 set, however, falling from 56% last year to 42%.

Kids named TikTok as their favorite social networking platform in the Childwise study. The app thrived during lockdowns last year, reaching two billion downloads worldwide in April. According to Childwise, one in five kids picked TikTok as their favorite website. And girls—especially older ones—are more likely to favor it than boys.

YouTube still reigns supreme as kids’ favorite website overall, and they spend an average of 2.3 hours a day on the platform. But the report found that YouTube usage among kids ages five to six has decreased slightly compared to last year.

All of these behaviors were affected by the pandemic. According to the survey, 49% of seven- to 16-year-olds experienced the disruption of a parent or guardian setting up a home office, being furloughed or losing their job. Nearly half of all kids surveyed (45%) worry they are falling behind in school, while 62% reported feeling lonely.

The “2021 Childwise Monitor Report” checked in with nearly 2,000 children between September and November 2020. The annual study examines the media consumption and purchasing habits of kids ages five to 16 in the UK.

Last year, Childwise’s “Quarantween and Quaranteen Playground Buzz” report, a special edition examining kid behavior and attitudes during lockdown, found that teens were focused on keeping up with school. And tween girls, specifically, were most likely to demonstrate a positive mental attitude.

About The Author
Elizabeth Foster is Kidscreen's Copy Chief & Special Reports Editor. Contact Elizabeth at


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