Lockdown was tough, for people’s mental health, for our kids and so much more. One thing parents had to do was think long and hard about the rules around just how long they should be on their screens.

A new study from Life Ed and Trend Micro which was released today shows just that, with 37% of parents reporting they relaxed their screen time restrictions during the pandemic.

Interestingly, 14% tried the opposite – introducing more rules!

The Trend Micro survey asked more than 1000 parents of kids aged 5 to 12 about their concerns around the use of online devices during the pandemic.

The good news? Almost 90% of parents reported they did talk to their kids about cyber safety during the period – that’s a huge win, and probably the most important thing any parent can be doing.

Perhaps mirroring my own belief, there was a mix of negative and positive thoughts about the effect of the additional screen time during Covid.

More time spend playing resulted in less time playing outside. But that time on screen was actually a social time which replaced the usual face-to-face interaction.

“COVID presented many challenges for parents, especially around meeting children’s social and emotional needs”, Life Ed NSW/ACT CEO Jonathon Peatfield said. “Many parents recognised that online activity allowed for much needed social interaction and encouraged curiosity and connectedness.”

“Now that schools have gone back, it would be interesting to see whether changes to family rules around screen time continue.”

“Children are going to continue to spend time online using a wide range of devices, so it’s important that Australian parents know they have tools and resources available to them to address their concerns around online cyber risks,” said Tim Falinski, Managing Director, Consumer, APAC, Trend Micro. “Beyond ongoing education, they should also utilise technologies that have features such as monitoring and parental controls, as these are often the first line of defence against online suspicious activity and can provide a strong layer of protection.”

Among the other info that came out of the report, we learned that 84% of kids owned their own device, a big increase from the shared numbers of just a few years ago. 46% of kids spent at least 3 hours per day online.

But for parents there is work to do, 74% found it challenging through COVID to ensure their kids have a healthy balance of screen time versus off-screen time.