Parenting and tweens' media use during the COVID-19 pandemic
Nancy A. Jennings, Allison G. Caplovitz
Psychology of Popular Media
Family life was greatly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, as members adjusted to living, working, and learning at home. Media and technology became a central tool to manage these activities simultaneously for different family members. This survey of 608 parents of 9-to 13-year-olds examines youth media use in this narrowly defined age group and also examines factors such as gender and parental worry about the pandemic. The vast majority of parents (83.7%) reported that their children were
... media more during the COVID-19 pandemic than before. As with more use, parents reported varying purchases of media devices for the household, mobile devices for their children, and account creation in social media platforms for their children. Of the social media platforms available, parents most frequently allowed their tweens to create an account on TikTok (25%), followed by Facebook Messenger (23%) and Instagram (17%). On comparing girls and boys, it was found that significantly more girls than boys created TikTok accounts, whereas significantly more boys than girls created Instagram, Discord, and Twitter accounts. Established patterns of media use by gender before the pandemic were maintained. Boys continued to play video games, and girls watched videos. Because older tweens were more likely to already have social media accounts, we observed an influx of younger users on social media. In addition, parents who were more worried about the pandemic indicated their tween used media more overall and spent more time on a laptop or desktop computer than before the COVID-19 pandemic. Public Policy Relevance Statement During the COVID-19 pandemic, parents of tweens (9-to 13-years-olds) reported increased use of screen time for their children, creation of social media accounts for younger tweens, and purchases of new devices, even in media-saturated homes. Moreover, preexisting patterns of media use by gender continued. Parental worry about the pandemic was also related to overall media use for their children and their child's computer use more specifically.