Isolation from friends and other factors during the pandemic contributed to a significant increase in the use of screens by teenagers and teenagers from pre-pandemic levels.

Common Sense Media, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of all children and families, published a detailed report in March showing that screen usage has increased much faster in 2021 than in the previous four years. This use for teenagers has been six times more in the last two years.

The pandemic was probably a major contributor to changes in screen usage. According to the study, platforms such as TikTok continue to swell in popularity and may also stimulate increased use.

Researchers looked for details on whether there were any lasting differences in the use of screen media by young people, as society began to reopen in the autumn of 2021. They focused on teenagers in the United States (ages 8 to 12) and teenagers (ages 13 to 18) and time spent using digital devices, in addition to time spent online and homework.

Total use of entertainment screens among teenagers and teenagers, per day, 2015 to 2021

Using the entertainment screen includes time spent watching TV and online videos, playing video games, using social media, browsing websites, creating content, reading e-reading, and other digital activities. In 2021, the time spent reading e-books was included in the total for the first time (six minutes among teenagers and eight among teenagers), and the time spent watching movies in the cinema and using the iPod Touch was not included. was included (they accounted for seven minutes among teenagers and six minutes among teenagers in 2019). Source: Common Sense Media

The results do not show dramatic changes in the general patterns of media use by teenagers and teenagers in terms of the types of devices used. The time devoted to non-school screen activities has increased significantly as the use of social media has spread somewhat among the younger age groups.

Online videos have solidified their place at the top of the youth media hierarchy. However, video games did not increase dramatically during the pandemic. The most important activities remain the same – online videos, games and social media. Also, common patterns between adolescents and teenagers, or boys and girls, continue.

The media can be used in a positive or negative way. Vulnerable children overuse the media or use the media in ways that contribute to mental health problems, according to Mike Robb, senior director of research at Common Sense Media.

“We need to be able to identify and support these children. But there are also children who use the media to keep their spirits up, connect with friends, or maintain their mental health. We need to make sure we don’t reflexively demonize all the time on screen, “he told TechNewsWorld.

“It really depends on who uses it, what they use and to meet the needs.

More findings on media use

The report found eight main results compared to the last report on media use before the pandemic in 2019. The Common Sense Media survey is the only nationally representative survey tracking media use patterns among a truly random sample of 8-18 year olds in the United States. states, according to James P. Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense Media.

Teenagers on the site would not want to live without, 2021

Among the 79% of 13- to 18-year-olds who are regular users of social media and online videos (they use it at least once a week), the percentage who choose any site as one they would not want to live without.

Sites that teenagers would not want to live without, 2021

Source: Common Sense Media

In addition to the results cited above, the researchers found:

  • If they are forced to choose, teenagers say that YouTube is the site they would not want to live without. In fact, watching online videos is the favorite media activity of both groups, both among boys and girls from racial / ethnic groups and income levels.
  • The use of social media is growing among 8-12 year olds. Thirty-eight percent of teens used social media (up from 31 percent in 2019). Almost one in five (18 percent) said they now use social media on a daily basis (up from 13 percent in 2019).
  • Teenagers now spend nearly an hour and a half a day using social media, but have conflicting feelings about the media. Although teenagers spend a lot of time on social media, they do not enjoy it as much as other types of media.
  • The top five social media sites teenagers have ever used are Instagram (53 percent), Snapchat (49 percent), Facebook (30 percent), Discord (17 percent) and Twitter (16 percent).
  • Both teenagers and teenagers differ significantly in the average amount of screen media they participate in each day. Boys use more screen media than girls. Blacks and Hispanic / Latino children use more than white children. Children from lower-income households use more than those in higher-income homes.
  • Children consumed more media in general during the pandemic than before 2019, except for one source: reading did not increase in use.
  • Nearly half of all teens have listened to podcasts, and one in five say they do it at least once a week. They engage in a wide variety of media types, including media based primarily on the spoken word.
  • A large number of blacks, Hispanics / Latino children, and children in lower-income households still do not have access to a computer at home. This is one of the most important building blocks of digital capital.

Worrying results

Rob was struck by the sharp increase in screen time in the last two years compared to the four years before the pandemic. From 2015 to 2019, the use of media for teenagers increased by only three percent. For teenagers, it has grown by 11 percent.

However, from 2019 to 2021 alone, media use increased by nearly 20 percent for both teenagers and teenagers. That’s almost six times the growth we saw before the pandemic for teenagers alone.

“I’m also struck by the fact that 38 percent of teenagers have used social media, despite the fact that most platforms are not designed to be used by people under the age of 13,” he said.

The best entertainment media activities among teenagers and teenagers, 2021

The best entertainment media activities among teenagers and teenagers, 2021

Video games refer to games played on a console, computer, or portable game player. Mobile games refer to games played on a smartphone or tablet. Source: Common Sense Media

What kids do with the media is just as important or more important than how much time they spend with the media, Rob said. If kids use good content, use technology to communicate and go out with friends, and use technology to express themselves, then he doesn’t think we should worry so much about time.

“When the use of the media replaces important activities, such as communication, spending quality time with family or sleeping, I worry,” he said.


The researchers noted that they were surprised not to find drastic expansions in the spread of new tablets and smartphones among adolescents and teenagers. The study does not show that this happened, they said.

“We are beginning to see a modest trend towards the use of social media at an earlier age. This is particularly interesting given the ongoing debate on the impact of social media on the well-being of young people, “they wrote.

The other new media product pushed by Facebook (now Meta) is immersive virtual reality media. The increase in time is only for entertainment media, not for school, distance learning or homework, Rob said.

At this point, the use of the new environment is slow; in fact slower than the growth of podcasts, the report notes.

“I keep wondering if at some point we will reach the ceiling on media use, but so far we haven’t,” Rob added.

Changing views on the impact on children

A recent study (Rideout & Robb, 2021) shows that many young people used their digital devices during the pandemic to communicate with friends online, learn about things that interest them, and create and share their own content. This work suggests that parents and educators must be careful to demonize the use of time on children’s screens, writes Steyer of Common Sense Media in the conclusion of the report.

“This has obviously played an important role for many teenagers and teenagers during the pandemic,” he added.

This latest study on the use of media by children shows that activities such as content creation, video chat and online reading are common among young people and are important and meaningful to them. But this increased screen time is still a small part of overall screen usage, Steyer warned.

“Ultimately, the time young people spend on content created by others still dominates, whether it’s content they watch, read, play or scroll through. Given the enormous amount of time children spend on the media, it is even more important to promote quality media by creating and highlighting shows, games, applications and books that engage, inspire and deliver positive performance, ”he concluded.

Common Sense Census Report 2021: Adolescent and Teenage Media Use is available here.

Kids’ Screen Use Sees Fastest Rise in 4 Years

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