How Has COVID-19 Impacted Digital Parenting Concerns?

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Everyone’s online activity has surged during the COVID-19 pandemic. Digital content consumption has increased across all age groups during the pandemic and resulting lockdowns. In fact, according to a recent article published by Forbes.com, it has doubled in 2020 up to an average of 6 hours and 59 minutes every day.

Of course, here at Smith Micro, we are especially interested in how this surge in digital content consumption has impacted parents and their children. In August 2020, we undertook a survey of 2,000 American parents of school-aged children with the objective of uncovering insights that would help us understand the impact COVID-19 has had on parents’ perceptions of their children’s online safety and digital screen time. Here are a few of the questions that led our inquiry:

  • Has the emergence of online schooling made parents more concerned about their children’s online safety?
  • What are parents’ top concerns regarding their children’s online activities?
  • How much has children’s’ screen time increased since the pandemic began?
  • What proportion of screen time is educational vs. non-educational?
  • Do parents think that their children are more likely to engage in inappropriate online behavior because of the social conditions imposed by COVID-19?
  • Have parents adopted digital parenting technology such as parental controls and screen time management apps during the pandemic?

The survey results confirmed many of our assumptions regarding parental concerns related to COVID-19, but also uncovered a few very interesting data points that we had not previously considered. Highlights from the survey are listed below by topic. To gain access to the full data set, download our survey overview eBook here.

Online Safety/Distance Learning
  • 69% of parents cited that online schooling has made them more concerned about their children’s internet safety than ever before.
  • More than 6 out of 10 (61%) parents think their child is more likely to engage in undesirable online behavior now than before.
Screen Time Management
  • More than 7 out of 10 parents surveyed admitted “feeling helpless” to limit their children’s screen time amidst COVID-19.
  • Nearly 1 in 4 parents (22.45%) reported an 11-15 hour weekly increase in their children’s usage of video streaming apps such as YouTube, TikTok, and Netflix.
  • Across the entire survey panel, usage of video streaming apps by children increased by an average of 8.95 hours/week.

Children's digital screen time has surged during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Digital Parenting Technology
  • 46% of parents would consider using or have used a contact tracing app.
  • 45.35% of parents would consider using or have used a location tracking app.
  • 42.75% of parents would consider using or have used a parental control app.
  • Conversely, 24.65% of parents surveyed would not consider using any of these technologies.
Gender-specific insights
  • Male parents are much more likely than female parents to use (or consider using) contact tracing (56% vs. 31%) and location tracking (52% vs 34%) apps.
  • Female parents were more likely than males to indicate that they would not consider using digital parenting technology (38% vs. 17%).
  • A significantly higher proportion of males utilize tools to monitor their children’s internet usage compared to females (55% vs. 29%).
Geography-specific insights
  • Parents in the Northeast are much more likely (58%) to use a contact tracing app than parents in other regions of the US. Parents in the Midwest are least likely (32%).
  • Parents in the northeast are much more likely (56%) to utilize an internet monitoring application that parents in other regions. Parents in the Midwest are least likely (32%).

For more information on this survey and the data collected, feel free to contact us.

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