Key Research

Screen Time Use Among US Adolescents During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Findings From the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study

Key Takeaways:

  • Non-school-related screen time increased to 7.7 hours a day in May 2020, compared to 3.8 hours a day before the pandemic
  • Children of color and those from lower-income families logged more hours on screens than their white, wealthier peers
  • Adolescents experiencing stress and poor mental health may use screens to manage negative feelings or withdraw from stressors
  • Despite gradual reversal of quarantine restrictions, studies suggest screen use  remains elevated
  • Future studies should examine screen use trends as pandemic restrictions are lifted and also explore mechanisms to prevent sociodemographic disparities.
  • Limitations of study
    • self-reporting data by young people
    • multitasking could lead to overestimation of time

 

LiveMore ScreenLess’ Summary

Given that the risks and concerns over screen time are known, and worldwide studies have suggested an increase in screen time among children and teens during the pandemic, similar studies about screen time during the pandemic have not been completed using  US data. This study sought to evaluate adolescents’ self-reported screen use during the pandemic and to assess mental health and resiliency factors among a demographically diverse, national sample of children and adolescents aged 10 to 14 years.

Cross-sectional data from the May 2020 COVID-19 survey (COVID-19 Rapid Response Research Release) from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study were analyzed. The sample consisted of 5,412 adolescents predominantly aged 12 to 13 years. Amount of screen use for the following functions (beyond school-related work) was self-reported: multiple-player gaming, single-player gaming, texting, social media, video chatting, browsing, and streaming movies, videos, or television shows. 

The mean total daily screen use was found to be  7.70 h/d. This is higher than pre-pandemic estimates (3.8 h/d) from the same group, although a younger age and slightly different screen options  could account for some of the differences. Despite the gradual lessening of quarantine restrictions, studies suggest that screen use may remain  elevated. Screen time disparities across racial, ethnic, and income groups have been reported previously, and may have more to due with structural and systemic racism–driven factors (eg, built environment, access to financial resources, and digital media education)—all of which were amplified throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Adolescents experiencing stress and poor mental health may use screens to manage negative feelings or withdraw from stressors. Although some screen uses promote social connection, higher coping behaviors and social support in this sample were associated with lower total screen usage.

Nagata JM, Cortez CA, Cattle CJ, et al. Screen Time Use Among US Adolescents During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Findings From the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study. JAMA Pediatr. 2022;176(1):94–96. 

Topics: Pandemic , Screen Time

Year: 2021

Hosting University: UofC, San Diego

Participants: 5,412, pewsominRLY 12 – 13 years

Data Collection: Cross-sectional data May 2020 COVID-19 survey (COVID-19 Rapid Response Research Release) from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) Study