Experts in digital safety
One year ago we released our first annual report on children’s digital habits based on app activity during most of 2019. We also gave an early preview of 2020 as the Covid-19 pandemic hit and made an immediate impact on screen time. In last year’s research, we analyzed four app categories – online video, social media, gaming and education – across three major markets: the US, the UK and Spain. This year, we take our research a step further by analyzing the entire 2020 year, including a global view, and adding a fifth app category, communication. In every chapter, we share graphs on the most popular apps based on the percentage of kids using them, the average time spent per popular app, the average time spent per app category as a whole, the times of day kids used apps in that category, and the apps parents blocked most.
The goal of this year’s report is to give everyone interested in children’s safety and wellbeing a broader view of what kid’s screen time habits were like in 2020, how they evolved, and what to look out for in 2021. We also aim to help parents make better online safety and screen time decisions for their families. That’s why, we close each chapter with screen time advice from expert doctors, psychologists, gaming, digital wellbeing and technology experts from around the world.
We’ve designed this report with the aim of making it easier to understand which apps kids are using most, what risks to look out for and what to do to create or ensure healthy online habits. We’ll continue to do so for as long as technology is an integral part of children’s lives, and especially as they continue to be locked behind screens due to the pandemic.
Below are some of the key insights and advice you’ll find in the report:
2020 was a really difficult year for everyone, but especially kids. While not covered in this report, we must remember with the digital divide there are two very different stories to tell in regards to screen time and the pandemic. For those with access to technology, apps were the primary way that kids remained connected to their friends and extended family during lockdowns. Being able to enter digital worlds to be able to play, socialize, learn and communicate was overall a positive in a crisis situation, but is it the way we want our kids to live: dependent on their devices, all the time?
Important questions arise. What effect will the excess in screen time – 25% more on online video, 76% more on social media, 23% more on video games, 54% more on education, and 49% more on communication – have on children’s physical and mental health not only now, but decades into the future?
Our report is one more indicator that the world is changing and technology is a huge part of it. Propelled by the pandemic, an increasing number of kids worldwide have embraced technology to the point that online is now their main life driver rather than offline. For them, online represents a lifeline and a world full of unwritten rules and opportunity. However, too many kids are also unaware of all the threats to their safety, privacy, health and even future reputation online.
Parents now more than ever need to talk to their children about the risks online and really get to know the apps that have become daily parts of their lives – co-play Roblox, watch YouTube as a family, and follow the same influencers their kids do on TikTok.
While 2021 feels more promising in a sense of stabilization, we expect screen time rates to stay at unhealthy levels and for online risks to remain about the same. You can be sure we’ll let you know in next year’s report on children’s digital habits!