Research on children’s use of media in the pandemic

by Helen Martin
During lockdown, with television coming into its own as a teaching tool and with increased emphasis on watching News bulletins, there was some anxiety from parents that their children would be negatively influenced by the increase in screen time.
As a result of being asked to facilitate a New Zealand contribution to an international survey on media use by children aged 9-13 during lockdown, academic Dr. Geoff Lealand says that, while the results only tell a partial story and there is much more to explore, it was interesting to get a glimpse into the significant role media played in children’s lives during these weeks as a source of education, information and entertainment.
It is heartening that, with 42 countries contributing, Lealand says, “a majority of children were able to identify misinformation (fake news) to varying degrees, were aware of vulnerable groups likely to be exposed to the virus and were aware of what personal health measures were necessary to minimise risk. In one example, 79% of the children expressed disbelief in the pervasive rumour that the virus had been spread by a foreign government as a weapon.”
Globally, the research found there was an increase in the use of certain media forms, especially television, children reported turning to media when they were feeling sad and/or lonely and many said they used social media to contact friends and relatives.
The survey concluded that, while nearly one half of those answering the questionnaire expressed dissatisfaction with media news about COVID-19 and reported they were unwilling to read, watch or listen to any more coverage, for the majority of participating children, the media (children’s media in particular) played an important role for children living through a global crisis.
A fuller report can be found at Parenting for a Digital Future at

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