Search icon


15th Nov 2020

Parents’ mental health is being affected by children’s screen time, new study finds

Trine Jensen-Burke

parents stressed over kids' screen time

Very relatable to many after the past few months.

According to a new study, the more kids are exposed to ads aimed at them, the more stress it piles on us as parents.

Surprising? Not really.

But with Christmas around the corner, and the festive marketing onslaught the kids are about to get exposed to, it might be good to tighten in the reigns a bit on the aul’ screen time – if for little else than your own sanity, parents.

The University of Arizona study is based on survey data from 433 parents of children ages two to 12.  And, in short, it basically revealed that the more TV (or YouTube) kids watch, the more ads they see and the more likely they are to ask for things on shopping trips.

And this, the researchers say, may contribute to parents’ overall stress levels.

Because, you know, shopping trips where your kids throw tantrums over ScruffaLuvs and Nerf guns are anything but relaxing, I think we can all agree.

“The more advertising children see, the more they ask for things and the more conflict is generated,” said lead study author Matthew Lapierre, of the University of Arizona Department of Communication.

“What we haven’t looked at before is what the potential effect is on parents. We know kids ask for things, we know it leads to conflict, but we wanted to ask the next question: Could this be contributing to parents’ overall stress?”

The study suggests that, yes, yes it could.

Limiting screen time

While the study suggested parents simply ‘limit screen time’ to combat exposure to advertising they did acknowledge that this is easier said than done.

I mean; anyone who is still working from home while also taking care of your kids will know this. Sometimes you need to good, old reliable screen nanny to mind your kids so you can actually get some work done!

The scientists also point out that advertisers are getting more clever with how they ‘hide’ content in kids’ shows – with tactics such as product placement and integrated branding. Humph.

What’s more, the researchers claim that the sort of advertising our little ones are exposed to is VERY enticing and exciting.

“Advertising aimed at children – which often features lots of bright colours, upbeat music and flashy characters – can be especially persuasive, since, developmentally, children aren’t fully capable of understanding advertising’s intent, Lapierre said.

“Children don’t have the cognitive and emotional resources to pull themselves back, and that’s why it’s a particular issue for them,” he added.