4 in 5 parents fear pandemic isolation, excess screen time is ruining children’s social skills

NEW YORK — Most parents will probably tell you they don’t like their kids doing nothing but looking at a digital screen all day. When your family is isolating inside all year due to COVID-19 however, who are kids going to interact with? A new study finds the majority of American parents are worried about the long-term social effects the pandemic and too much screen time is having on their child’s development.

A new survey polled 2,000 American parents of school-aged children finds 81 percent are worried about the lasting impact the pandemic may have on their child’s social development. With all this time spent at home during the pandemic, 64 percent of moms and dads are concerned too much screen time will make social development harder for their child in the long run.

The top social skill parents believe all this screen time is impacting is the ability to make friends in new social settings (39%). Conflict resolution (27%) and the ability to share with ease (26%) follow closely behind. With this in mind, it’s no wonder 42 percent of respondents believe the pandemic is having a negative impact on their child’s social skills overall.

Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of MindWare, the survey also reveals 63 percent of parents are often struggling to find a mentally stimulating activity for their kids to do while at home.

Cracking down on screen time during pandemic

kids screens covidAs families reflect on the past year in isolation during the pandemic, nearly half the poll (47%) noticed their child lost interest in their favorite activities due to the stress of COVID-19. Internet safety is a strong concern as well, with four in 10 parents admitting they feel like they never really know what their child is doing on a digital device.

Researchers find the average parent asks their child to put down a device and do something more mentally stimulating an average of seven times a week. Sixty-three percent of respondents have household screen time limits as well – limiting their child to an average of four hours a day on a screen.

The top reasons parents have screen time limits in their homes include wanting their child to be more physically active (70%) and wanting them to spend more quality time with the rest of the family (60%). Forty-five percent of these parents also want their children to spend more time thinking creatively and using their imagination.

kids screens covidIn fact, 86 percent of parents in the survey said they hope their child never loses their creative spark.

“Heavy screen-time can also restrict hands-on learning and exploration while limiting lessons in real-life problem solving,” says Jonathan Staruck, Vice President and General Manager for MindWare, in a statement. “Children can find just as much enjoyment out of non-digital activities like with STEM toys, cool science kits or arts and craft kits.”

Is technology stunting children’s creativity?

Despite these desires for their children to spend less time on digital devices, parents say the top playtime activity for their children is still playing video games – regardless of their age. As parents reflected on modern playtime activities, 68 percent feel like kids today aren’t as imaginative as their moms and dads were at that age. Another 67 percent shared the same sentiment regarding their child’s social skills.

“Social-emotional skills are gained through in-person interaction and working together with others,” says Staruck. “Educational toys and games are one of the best ways, and definitely the most fun, to teach a child social skills and ignite their creativity. Things like active play toys and strategic and cooperative games are all easy and enjoyable ways to make small shifts away from digital drain and pandemic boredom.”

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