(ABC4) – The year 2020 undoubtedly brought its own challenges, but a new survey shows our furry friends might have helped the youngest among us keep learning while at home.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, students in the U.S. and around the world were forced to attend school virtually from home. Many parents, government officials, and more expressed concerns that those students were suffering and unable to grow their social, emotional, and core skill developments.

A survey of 2,000 parents in the U.S. and U.K. found that many children learning from home are actually seeing those developments benefit from household pets.

Mars – the company behind brands like Pedigree, M&M’s, and Wrigley chewing gum – says its survey found 52% of children are spending more time with their pets than before the COVID-19 pandemic. At least 1 in 7 children and young people lived under stay-at-home policies through most of 2020, according to a Save the Children report.

Children spending more time with their pets are doing a variety of activities with them, including:

  • Playing with them (55%)
  • Talking to them (49%)
  • Reading to them (39%)

In total, the Mars survey found 40% of children are spending more than two hours a day with their pet now.

Other survey findings

More than 83% of the parents surveyed reported that their family pet helped their child feel less lonely during COVID-19 related stay-at-home orders. Over three in four parents say they feel day-to-day interactions with their cat or dog reduced their child’s stress and anxiety.

Parents say pets also helped improve their child’s academic performance. Mars reports that 72% of parents surveyed said their child was more motivated with a pet around and 90% found pet interaction helped boost children’s energy and concentration.

In addition, three-fourths of parents surveyed say they believe pets helped children bond with other schoolmates. Over 80% believe pets encouraged more exercise and activity.

One of the survey’s most interesting findings? When asked if they believed pet interaction should be used in schools, 80% of parents said they agreed, with 3 in 4 saying there should be more investments supporting pets in the classroom programs.

Not only did parents report the benefits of pets on their children, the majority also say their pets benefitted from spending time with their children.

Nine in 10 parents reported that they believe their pets enjoy spending more time with their children. Additionally, 77% of parents felt their pet is calmer now that they spend more time with their child – that increased to 84% in the U.S.

You can see more survey findings here:

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