Double-Edged Screen: COVID Device Usage

One of the more interesting findings of our initial research on device usage in January was the small percentage of respondents who had plans to reduce their device usage.  In light of our drastically different circumstances during COVID-19, we wanted to see how stay-at-home orders and social distancing were affecting not only current device usage, but future plans as well.

COVID Device Usage - Chirp Research, The Double-Edged Screen

Guilt-Free Device Usage

Before COVID-19 there was a notable gap between how many respondents thought others were addicted to their devices and how many felt they themselves were addicted. During COVID-19, 49% of respondents now feel they are addicted to their devices and 86% of others are addicted.

“There isn’t anything else I can or should be doing. It’s fine. Everything I need to do is on my phone or laptop. That guilt isn’t there now.

male, gen x, new york city

Respondents are aware that, during COVID-19 quarantine, their limited ability to connect IRL has created an unavoidable dependency on their devices. Devices are necessary and essential to just about every aspect of life during COVID-19, including work, school, communication, and ordering groceries. Because there aren’t other options to communicate and keep up with people, many feel little to no guilt regarding their increased usage.

Ready To Detox

It’s unsurprising that the vast majority of respondents report increased device usage for themselves and their children during quarantine. But, our recent supplemental study showed that plans to reduce device usage when stay-at-home orders are lifted increased by 12%. There is also an increased awareness of and interest in attending digital detox retreats.

“I’ve had my head buried in a screen through quarantine and before quarantine too. Now, I am aware that I have a choice. Once I have the freedom to interact with people, I don’t want to spend it mindlessly scrolling.”

female, gen z, new york city
COVID Device Usage - 53% would like to reduce usage now - Chirp Research, The Double-Edged Screen

Coming Up Next…

Changes in daily life during COVID-19 have significantly impacted device usage across generations. While our new normal still remains uncertain, there is a growing desire to connect with others device-free. In our next post, we’ll explore how pre-COVID device usage was an unconscious and comfortable companion at all times.

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The Double-Edged Screen Methodology

The Double-Edged Screen is a primary research study conducted in early 2020 by Chirp Research. In this study, Chirp first conducted a nationally representative quantitative study (n=2000) to better understand perceptions of device usage, physical and mental impacts of device usage, and techniques for reducing screen time. Next, Chirp conducted multi-generational focus groups in Dallas and New York City to gain an intimate understanding of the role of technology and the positive and negative implications that device usage has on participants’ lives.  Additionally, we explored personal device usage and the impact of screen time on emotions and behaviors across generations and device types.