Pew: Screen Time Is Making Parenting Harder

(Image credit: Pew Research Center)

WASHINGTON—Technology is not making parenting any easier, whether it’s kids using it or the parents, according to a new study from Pew Research Center.

A majority of parents (66%) who have at least one child under the age of 18—as well as possibly having adult children—believe that parenting is harder today than it was 20 years ago. Among the top reasons why is technology, including dealing with the amount of screen time their children have access to.

PLUS: Researchers Find 1 Year Olds Spend an Hour Per Day Watching a Screen

Even while the World Health Organization (opens in new tab) issued guidelines in 2019 regarding the amount of time young children should spend in front of screens, 71% of parents with children under the age of 12 say they are at least somewhat concerned they might be spending too much time in front of a screen; 31% are very concerned. Interestingly, 84% of parents of a young child said they are either very (39%) or somewhat (45%) confident they know the appropriate amount of screen time for their child.

(Note: this study was conducted before the outbreak of COVID-19)

Even so, 61% of parents of children 11 or younger say they have received advice or information regarding screen time from a doctor or other medical professional.

Most children do interact with some kind of screen—80% of children 5-11 interact with a tablet computer; 63% interact with a smartphone. For children under 5, those numbers drop to 48% for a tablet, 55% for a smartphone. 

YouTube is also a popular platform for children to interact with, as 89% of parents say their children 5-11 watch content on YouTube. So do 81% of parents of 3-4 year olds and 57% of parents with 2 year olds or younger. Parents do credit the platform for entertaining and educating their children, nut a majority do have concerns about their child being exposed to inappropriate content, per Pew.

PLUS: Increased Time Watching TV, on Social Media, Promotes Youth Depression

In addition, parents believe that they themselves may be spending too much time in front of a screen. More than half (56%) say they spend too much time on their phone, while 68% acknowledge that they are at least sometimes distracted by their phone while spending time with their children.

For more information on Pew’s study, visit (opens in new tab)