There was a time, in 2020, when the majority of parents were allowing their kids to watch an unlimited amount of screen time, as shown in previous CivicScience survey data. This might sound a little extravagant but the circumstances were unusual. Plus, any parent who has caught an episode or ten of “Bluey” knows that watching just one more episode can turn into a hard-to-break habit.
Today though, unlimited screen time is much less permissible among parents: 60% of parents limit their child’s screen usage to some extent, while 40% do not.
When developing boundaries between children and devices, a large percentage of parents practice an enforceable hours per day rule (27%). A smaller percentage (17%) are more stringent and allow only educational screen time during the week. Some parents go as far as eliminating weekday screen time altogether (12%).
Between one and four hours of screen time per day is the typical cap most parents enforce: 38% of parents allow one to two hours of screen time per day outside of homework, and 30% allow three to four hours.
Very few children are getting four to six hours of screen time a day outside of homework, but when the data is grouped, it’s clear a significant percentage of kids are permitted three or more hours of screen time each day (47%). This number is slightly lower than a year ago, but not by much.
Whether or not parents restrict screen time for their children correlates with parental age. The older the parents are, the more likely they are to give their kids unlimited access to screens. Sixty-seven percent of parents aged 45 and older say they do not limit their children’s screen time. Contrast that with the 6% of parents between 25 and 34 who don’t limit screens – the generational differences are apparent. Younger parents are also more likely to have younger children, and so may have more control over screen time compared to older children/teens.
Restrictions on daily screen time fluctuate when factoring in the working status of parents as well. Unemployed parents are roughly 30% more likely than employed parents to sanction three or more hours of screen time in a day.
In addition, parents working either fully or partially remote are significantly more likely than parents working outside of the home to permit three or more hours of screen time for their children.
Lately, what are kids actually doing when they are using screens? Yes, homework/school is one of the top three activities permitted by parents, but before school comes games and watching TV shows (46% and 40% respectively). School-related screen time and talking with friends and family come after the entertainment.
While there are fewer parents allowing unlimited screen time now than at the height of the pandemic, many kids are getting significant screen time outside of homework or don’t answer to any rules about screen time at all. Working parents, remote working parents, and older parents appear to have more flexible rules (or none at all), painting an interesting picture of kids and their free time.