This study examines the media use of children from low-income homes during school closings during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Caregivers of 151 kindergarteners from low-income homes completed questionnaires as part of a larger study. Caregivers reported how much time children spent watching television/videos and using apps on the most recent weekday and weekend days. Caregivers also reported how their child's current use of media for several different purposes compared with how much the child usually uses media for that purpose.
Weekly average media use was 46.3 hours or 6.6 hours per day. Counter to previous research, weekday media use was higher than weekend media use, suggesting that media was likely used as a replacement for time usually spent in school. Caregivers reported increased child media use for positive purposes, such as education and maintaining relationships with family and friends outside of the home, and potentially useful but less socially valued purposes, such as occupying the child's time while caregivers were completing other tasks. Having more children in the household was related to higher media use, and girls used media for maintaining remote relationships more than boys.
These findings provide reason for both concern and optimism for the impacts of pandemic closures on low-income children. High levels of media use seem to be prevalent in this population. However, the diverse purposes for media use suggest that caregivers relied on media to supplement children's academic and social growth at a time when school and socializing were not safe in their typical forms.