NYT Says Kids' Screen Time Has 'Soared' Through Pandemic -- Yeah, No Sh*t

by Cassandra Stone
Originally Published: 
Leslie Grossman/Twitter and jandrielombard/Getty

Parents everywhere immediately took to social media to share their thoughts on the screen time “crisis”

Since March of last year, kids have been isolated at home to stay safe amid the coronavirus pandemic. This means most of them are schooling from home, not socializing with their friends, and can’t really go anywhere or do anything they normally would. So it should come as absolutely no surprise that “screen time” — that alarmist phrase aimed at guilting parents that’s usually followed by some sort of moral outrage — has dramatically increased.

And to that, parents everywhere say: Yeah. No shit.

The New York Times published a piece over the weekend claiming researchers and parents are “alarmed” over the increase of screen time. The report the Times cites said overall, children’s screen time had doubled by May as compared with the same period in the year prior. The data also showed that usage increased as time passed: In the United States, for instance, children spent, on average, 97 minutes a day on YouTube in March and April, up from 57 minutes in February, and nearly double the use a year prior.

The concern is that researchers feel that the use of devices is a “poor substitute” for activities that are central to the health and well-being of children, particularly activities that increase their social and physical development.

Here’s the thing. WE KNOW THIS. And honestly, how can we even muster up the energy to care? There’s a goddamn pandemic that’s still claiming the health and lives of countless people every single day. Most schools are operating on an online basis, and winter temperatures are keeping everyone indoors. Is it important for them to get outside when they can? Of course. A change of scenery and a dose of fresh air is always important. But it’s also unrealistic to expect them to be able to do that all day, every day.

Parents are trying to hold down full-time jobs (many of us are also at home), help their children with online schoolwork, navigate grocery store trips, keeping everyone healthy, and not lose our minds in the process. Screen time worries don’t even fit on our radar right now, sorry not sorry.

Throughout most of the past year, children are isolated from everything and everyone they hold dear. Technology has allowed them to stay connected to their friends, to continue their education, and, for older kids, to stay informed. Are there downsides to technology? Sure, just like everything else, parents should at the very least be keeping an eye on what their kids are digesting. But why is “technology” such a dirty word? Aren’t we, in more ways than one, preparing our kids for their future by allowing them to dive into their devices? Especially when many of us rely on our devices to work all damn day and it’s how we stay connected.

Unlike us, our children will never know a day without iPads, Kindles, laptops, and the Nintendo Switch. There’s no prize in heaven for the parent who kept their kids away from screens the most. Especially RIGHT NOW. The only thing you win is your own self-congratulations and a bunch of eye-rolling behind your back.

Think about the comfort we feel when we sit and binge our favorite show when we need to escape the world around us for awhile. Why would we ever think for one second kids don’t feel the same kind of comfort from TV shows, video games, or movies? It’s a way to unwind.

When the Times piece began making the rounds, parents everywhere threw their hands in the air. Because We. Have. Had. It.

My oldest daughter is five years old, isn’t in kindergarten yet, she can’t quite read an entire book on her own, her preschool is closed for the year, and she’s an extrovert. She spends about an hour a day watching a girl named Kelly play with baby dolls on YouTube Kids, and that’s when she’s not playing Mario Kart or watching Moana with her toddler sister while her dad and I work. We have zero childcare options. What are we supposed to do? Hand them an encyclopedia? Bundle them up and tell them to get lost in the woods? Crayons and kinetic sand can only get us so far through the day.

A few days a week, my sister FaceTimes my daughters and they simply prop the phone or tablet up and she watches them play and even joins in. This is how they can connect with their aunt, who lives in another state, right now. Sometimes they play for 15 minutes, sometimes it’s an hour-and-a-half. I think it’s beautiful.

Basically, parents are doing our best. Cocomelon, Nintendo, and FaceTime are getting us through the pandemic, damn it, and no one needs to feel one bit sorry about that.

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