Indian Journal of Social Psychiatry

: 2021  |  Volume : 37  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 254--256

Working parents and child screen media use: A tightrope walk

Ankit Kumar Sinha, Suravi Patra 
 Department of Psychiatry, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Bhubaneswar, Odisha, India

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Suravi Patra
Department of Psychiatry, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Sijua, Bhubaneswar - 751 019, Odisha


Screen media use by children has been a subject of constant concern by parents, teachers, pediatricians, psychiatrists, and policymakers. The potential for its misuse often shadows media use in terms of its educational and communication opportunities. Adding to the concerns is that excessive screen media use is associated with poor physical and mental health. COVID-19 lockdowns, school closure, and online classes have increased media exposure to children. The prevailing risky situation has prompted global health agencies and professional societies to issue guidelines for safe media use. Parents in their day-to-day life grapple with the problem of knowing how much media is good are media addicting and how to regulate media use in their children. Whether working from home or on-site, working parents face more complex problems wherein their media use is known to shape the kids' screen media use. This viewpoint discussed the problem statement, and the possible solutions for the already overburdened parents juggling work demands, childcare, and screen media use in their children.

How to cite this article:
Sinha AK, Patra S. Working parents and child screen media use: A tightrope walk.Indian J Soc Psychiatry 2021;37:254-256

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Sinha AK, Patra S. Working parents and child screen media use: A tightrope walk. Indian J Soc Psychiatry [serial online] 2021 [cited 2021 Dec 8 ];37:254-256
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COVID-19 has compounded emotional problems in children by providing unlimited access to the screen media. The pandemic has changed the scenario of parenting and schooling; the entire onus of providing the opportunity for growth and learning has fallen on parents with prolonged lockdowns, school closure, and online classes. The current situation demands an evolution in parents' traditional roles in shaping their children's emotional, cognitive and social development.[1]

 Working Parents and Child Care

In a nuclear family, when both the parents are working and need to report to their respective workplaces, childcare was provided by maids, creches, day-care centers, and even the traditional Anganwadi's. With the COVID-19 lockdowns, maids are not allowed to households, and childcare centers are also closed, leaving the onus entirely on the working parents to fend for themselves to take care of their children and manage their work. Belonging to a joint family is proving a boon to working parents in terms of provision for childcare by other members of the family.

Children of working mothers become independent sooner than the children of homemakers. They learn from their parents how to balance work-life situations. Working parents provide a better lifestyle to their children. Children start learning the value of time and sharing responsibilities. These opportunities ultimately help them become more mature with adaptive life skills.[2]

On the contrary, at times, parental supervision may get affected because of work-related absence from homes. Spending less time with the children, if it results in impairment in parental bonding, can hamper the mental health and learning of the child.

 Working Parents Providing a Perfect Gateway for Excessive Screen Media Use

The use of screen media has increased manifold nowadays because of the increasing availability of electronic devices such as tablets, smartphones, laptops, and desktops in the household in daily life; working from home and attending online classes has further highlighted the need for electronic devices.[3]

Children use screen media to access social media (Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Discord, Tumblr), playing online games (Call of duty, battleground India, valorant, genshin impact Fortnite, Minecraft, Roblox). Children also surf the internet for watching videos, streaming content, and listening to songs. Among adolescents, screen media has become the platform of social interaction and communication.

Parental education, class, and income impact a child's opportunity for growth and development; it also influences exposure to screen media. Screen media use is more among children of low socioeconomic status.[4] The use of screen media is higher in children of working mothers than the homemakers in terms of the type of digital media, duration, and overuse defined by the reaction to screen removal.[5] Parental mediation practices and co-viewing are becoming critical for children's beneficial and harmful effects of electronic media use. Parental view, permissibility, and regulation determine child screen media use.

Guidelines are made available by professional societies to help parents regulate child screen media use.[6] The American Academy of Pediatrics has set guidelines for media use based on the child's developmental age. As per guidelines, media use should be avoided in children below 2 years of age, and no more than one hour of the high-quality program per day in preschoolers should be allowed. Media use should not replace other recreational activities and physical exercise in teenagers. Co-viewing media with kids should be done for all age groups of children.[7] Availability of parental control provisions on devices and internet portals are also advised to provide children safety. Co-sharing the screen media by watching/using the content together and having the family time of screen media use has been suggested as applicable by screen media use guidelines.

 Impact of Working Parents on Children

The parents' working status increases the availability of screen media devices to children, encourages digital literacy, and provides a learning opportunity.[8] At the same time, parental role modeling in terms of healthy screen media use and balancing a healthy lifestyle with screen media use helps shape screen media use by the child [Figure 1]. On the contrary, parental absences due to work, availability of screen media devices, and time constraints may make supervision of child screen media use difficult [Figure 2].{Figure 1}{Figure 2}

COVID-19's use of screen media for school lessons has proved a boon for children with communication difficulties and anxious temperament; these children are more comfortable in situations without in-person contact. Furthermore, social media helps introverted children share their feelings with the broadened world who could never do this during face-to-face communication. Internet access has opened global knowledge networks and is helping the young generation to expand their general knowledge and keep in touch with the recent current affairs happening in the world. Availability of screen media at home has made tiny tot's experts in operating these devices.

Excessive screen media use has raised concerns about the increasing prevalence of myopia, obesity, reduced physical activity, the risk for diabetes, cardiac diseases, and sleep problems. Increased time in social media uses further lead to dysregulation of children's mood and behavior. One of the studies suggests that children involving more than 3 h a day in social media are twice as prone to suffer from mental health problems like anxiety, depression, and attentional deficits.[9] Children interacting through social media may become poor at communicating both verbally and nonverbally. Teenagers are becoming more involved in online transactions through various online shopping platforms, making them more prone to gambling. Working parents might be unaware of such transactions, which further lead to potentiate the child behavior. Selfies are becoming a trend in today's teenage groups. Taking selfies in a risky situation such as standing close to moving vehicles and posing with wild animals on top of the hilly areas in keeping with the prevailing trends to get a “cool selfie” often prove fatal. The unsuspecting adolescents using social media also are falling prey to cyberbullying and are subjected to mental harassment. Objectionable content like porn and explicit sexual images and videos are also available on the internet with an apparent detrimental effect on the developing mind.

 How Can the Working Parents Help the Children to Become Cautious about Social Media?

Spending quality time with the child is essential. It might be difficult for the working parents, but adjusting the job timings and working life might help them spend sufficient time with their children. Introducing a child to various creative activities can direct the child in the right direction.[10] Having grandparents at home creates an opportunity for sharing and interaction and even opens up new learning opportunities. All these, in turn, prevent the child from excessive media use. Providing the child with a variety of educational toys can distract them from the digital world. Children should be more encouraged in real-life communication rather than the internet world. Supervision of online activity done by children is an essential part as it helps the parents to prevent the child from getting into any cyber-crime. Parents should reduce the easy availability of gadgets; reduction in the usage of social media by family members might influence the child is getting detached from excessive media use.[11] There are endless ways to cut short the children's excessive media use, but the most critical part is the awareness of parents that child is suffering from the ill effect of the digital world.


Working parents need to balance work and parenting. Regulating screen media use in the child requires a predictable and flexible routine of daily activities, including study time, and plan for physical and creative activities. Screen media use regulation needs parental supervision regarding timings of use, content regulation with setting up parental controls, setting time limits for screen media use, and family plans for screen media use. While these are challenging times, they provide a unique opportunity for working parents to supervise their children to grow and learn; parents can use this opportunity to shape their children's future lives.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.


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