Before the pandemic rocked the world, sending it into a global lockdown, most parents were all in favor of pulling their children away from glaring screens and having them spend time outside with friends.
While screens were formerly a subject of restrictive attitudes, the expansion of virtual learning changed many parents’ perspectives on screen time. According to Google’s research, the concern has shifted from how much time kids spend in front of screens to how they are spending that time.
Pandemic's Impact on Social Life
COVID-induced seclusion placed families in an array of restrictions, including seeing extended family members and socializing with friends in schools, social gatherings, and playdates. With that, the screens became a window to the outside world, leading many parents to recognize they were perhaps not opposed to screen time in principle. What they were actually seeking is greater control over what type of content their children consumed during screen time.
This has led Google to make some changes to Family Link, their parental control system, to accommodate the parents’ newfound views on the screen time their children partake in. While limits to daily screen time intake can still be applied, parents can now choose to make apps designed for remote learning and teacher communication as “always allowed,” alongside a wide array of newly developed educational apps that can be used supplemental to virtual class learning and for breaks from class-related software.
Alongside additional control, parents will also be able to have unprecedented visibility to how their children are spending their screen time via comprehensive activity reports which may be broken down by days, weeks, or months. These will provide a view of any desired granularity, giving parents a good understanding of how much time their children are spending on educational apps versus those used for play.
The controls have been enhanced as well, as parents will be able to set the screen limitations on their children’s screen access right through their Android platform devices. For those seeking some good, supplemental apps, Family Link will now also make recommendations for other good educational apps available in the Google Store.
Now that many parents’ eyes have been opened in terms of the amount of time their children spend in front of the screen and the content they consume during it, these updates will be more useful than this capability had been in the past. Of course, it is important to note the unfortunate nature of Google’s late arrival at this decision. After all the world is heading more towards a lift of lockdowns and fighting its way through the pandemic.
The decision, instead, curiously came at a time when parent’s screen time concerns are going to become lessened thanks to returning to in-school learning, relief on social restrictions, and the exceeding number of people being vaccinated. Perhaps, screen time will, in time, become something parents struggle with all over again.
How Parents View Screentime Now
The lessons from the pandemic, however, were not overlooked. Families have begun to consider what types of experiences children should have with screen time involved. Social platforms like Instagram and Tik Tok, for instance, were commonly first on the chopping block when it came to limiting children’s screen time. To their credit, they have recently answered by introducing new, family-friendly security attributes.
These new features are ultimately aimed at lessening concerns about screen exposure by providing more overt edutainment apps. Google hasn’t stopped with just the update either. By recognizing that children need their own space online with multiple accommodations, they recently launched families.google as well as Headspace, a meditation app, a sore need for families rocked by the pandemic world.
Google has even followed in Apple’s footsteps in providing a privacy label on the new apps, reassuring users about the transparency and limitations of data collection, the lack of which turned away many prospective users in the past. Besides reducing screen time stigma, this move is geared toward potentially building a new, robust array of educational games and in doing so, creating a category of material for youngsters to benefit from and be entertained by.