Nearly a year into the coronavirus crisis, parents across India— and the world — are watching their children glued to the digital world. This has also been indicated by a survey conducted between December 2020 and February 2021 that covered 10,112 primary/secondary caregivers and 2,916 frontline workers across 11 States in the country.
The survey by Niti Ayog painted a gloomy picture of how Covid-19 pandemic changed the world of the kids who were restricted in the four walls of their houses which prompted them to take to the digital gadgets. The outcomes were scary as shown by the report ‘Evidence-based response to ECD during the Covid-19 crisis.’
It noted that one third of children surveyed started watching videos/ playing games on the TV / phone / computer for the first time following the start of the pandemic in March 2020. Ditto was the case with children less than 2 years of age, when screen exposure, especially passive tech usage is known to be harmful for the cognitive development and psychosocial health of children.
Digital life is driven by urban households, with 41% of urban parents reporting their child started watching TV/phone/computer compared to 26% of rural parents. Conversely, 50% of rural parents reported their child continued to watch TV/ phone/ computer compared to 38% urban parents.
In-depth interviews also revealed that parents used phones and videos as a distraction to reign in their children. 1 in 4 households reported children spending less time with other children including siblings, cousins or neighbors' children of their age. A greater proportion of urban households (29%) reported this than did rural households (23%). Additionally, parents highlight children feeling more isolated and agitated; secondary research suggests higher usage of tech products and less interaction with peers may be a cause.69 During in depth interviews, parents recalled their children becoming agitated due to a lack of routine, lack of social interaction, and staying indoors.