David Kleeman: What will change as a result of the pandemic

For Part 2 of the Voices on the Future of Childhood series, we asked experts to take a stab at predicting the future by offering their thoughts on “What will change in the coming months and/or years as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.” 

David KleemanWhen liberated, face-to-face will overtake face-to-screen

David Kleeman is Senior Vice President of Global Trends for Dubit, a strategy and research consultancy and digital studio based in Leeds, England. 

On March 31, the New York Times headlined an article “Coronavirus Ended the Screen-Time Debate. Screens Won.” Screens may have won the initial argument, but I suspect the rebuttal is coming.

Dubit has been talking with kids about how they feel under distancing restrictions. Almost unanimously they most miss being with mates, whether on a football field, playground, or simply hanging out. They’re filling their time, often with virtually social games, but longing for social connection.

When COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, I’d wager that we’ll see screens sidelined for a time amid a joyous physical reunion. With luck, patience, and rule-following, that will be early summer, with long days and fair weather. Balls, skateboards and bicycles will emerge from quarantine; kids will play active, social games (ironically including “corona tag”).

This could be a short-term phenomenon, but we can nudge it toward permanence, establishing the balance in kids’ lives that most researchers, advocates, and parents seek.

Seeing their children’s delight in liberation, parents can loosen their tethers and encourage exploration and adventure. For media companies, I have two recommendations:

  1. Step back. If your engagement numbers go down, it isn’t personal. Your fans will return. Kids will be exiting a long-term exclusive relationship with technology and need time to stretch. 
  2. Be a social igniter. What do you want children to do after turning off their devices? What resources can you embed in your content to spark that—activities to try, things to discover, ideas to share, tools for creativity? 

Like a summer thunderstorm, release from COVID-19 confinement may wash away heat from the “screen time” argument and renew variety and balance in kids’ lives.


See more posts in this series:

Voices on the Future of Childhood

Alan Gershenfeld | Caroline Hu Flexer | David Kleeman | Jeremy Bailenson

Matthew Kam | Michael Rich | Mimi Ito | Warren Buckleitner


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