US School Kids 2020

How These Digital Natives Experience the Benefits and Shortcomings of Digital in a Period of Pandemic

Executive Summary

Amid a decline in screen-time rules and a rise in distance learning, the pandemic has remade the way digital technology fits into the lives of teens and younger school kids. Some of what marketers used to know about these digital natives’ behavior has become obsolete.

Are school kids getting more screen time?

Absolutely, and not just if they’re doing school at home. Many parents feel “helpless” (as they say in one survey) to limit screen time these days. School kids have taken advantage of the looser regimen, and one survey shows them averaging an extra daily 1.5 hours of recreational screen time. The number of teens spending more than 4 hours per day at this has soared.

Where is the extra screen time going?

Among teens, social has been a beneficiary as they struggle to stay connected to friends. Mobile usage has risen for the same reason. TV and video viewing have increased across school-age groups. Gaming has also gained, often as a means of interacting with socially distanced friends.

Among school kids whose classes have gone remote, how do they and their parents feel about distance learning?

There’s fear about the safety of attending schools, so distance learning is seen as a necessity—but amid doubt about its effectiveness. It’s especially problematic for special-needs students or those who lag in academic achievement in the best of times.

With this surge in digital activity, are school kids now as digitally equipped and connected as young adults?

In important respects, no, and especially not younger school kids. Even teens still lag in smartphone adoption. Parents take a dim view of younger kids using social media, and relatively few of them do. School kids are heavily involved in digital video, and YouTube is a mainstay.

WHAT’S IN THIS REPORT? This report examines ways in which school kids’ digital usage has risen during the pandemic. It also looks at how they’re faring with distance learning and assesses the underlying traits of their digital usage, which can belie the “digital natives” label.

KEY STAT: The pandemic has yielded large increases in school kids’ viewing of streaming video, with about one-third boosting their weekly viewing time by more than 10 hours.

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Table of Contents

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Digital Natives, but …
  3. The Inexorable Rise of Screen Time
  4. Not Learning to Love Distance Learning
  1. What Digital Resources They’ve Got and What They Use
  2. Key Takeaways
  3. eMarketer Interviews
  4. Read Next
  1. Sources
  2. Media Gallery

Charts in This Report

Interviewed for This Report

Dylan Collins
Interviewed October 8, 2020
Dr. Pamela Davis-Kean
Professor of Psychology, Research Professor
University of Michigan Institute for Social Research
Interviewed October 7, 2020
David Kleeman
Senior Vice President, Global Trends
Interviewed October 6, 2020
Michael Preston
Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop
Executive Director
Interviewed October 6, 2020

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