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New research: the major impact of corona on children

December 10th, 2020

No fewer than 26,258 children from 137 countries took part in # CovidUnder19, a large international study into the experiences of children during the corona crisis. 61% of the children says that education was better before corona and 41% says that their families have less money to spend since the pandemic. Terre des Hommes Switzerland is one of the main initiators of the study, that was done with the help of, among others, Queen's University in Belfast.

Education was identified as one of the most important themes by children when setting up the research project. According to 61% of the children surveyed, their education was better before corona, while 12% finds their education improved during the pandemic.

‘I think that during quarantine, the schedule of every child changed for worse'

‘I think that during quarantine, the schedule of every child changed for worse, starting with the education, communicating with friends, less time outside, alimentation, spiritual state etc. I want to mention the fact on-line classes did not have the effect and the degree of information and necessary knowledge due to the fact that a lot of children did not have the possibility (financial) to use the internet and the needed device, such as a phone or a laptop.' (girl, 14, Moldova)

Findings

61% of children said they were getting a better education before Coronavirus. 12% of children said their education was better during Coronavirus.

56% of children said they got to talk to their friends less than they would like since Coronavirus.

41% said their family had less money to meet their needs since Coronavirus.

20% of all children said they had less food since coronavirus with 65% saying this had not changed.

38% of children from the migrant community said they had less food since coronavirus while 48% said this remained the same as before.

21% of children said access to medical help was better before Covid-19.

9% felt less safe in their homes/where they lived since the start of Coronavirus. 36% felt safer since Coronavirus and 56% reported feeling as safe as they had done prior to the pandemic.

16% think the media has portrayed children more negatively than before Coronavirus. Children in the United Kingdom and Ireland were more likely (34%) to feel the portrayal of children and young people had gotten worse since the pandemic began compared to children from other countries (15%).

38% don’t think their government is listening to children when making decisions about Covid-19. Only 20% of children considered that the government listens to them when making policy decisions.

'I would tell politicians when they are making laws to do that with the heart of mothers and not of politicians’. (Girl, 12, Bolivia)

'Well a heads up to the schools would have been better. But I guess they also didn't know that is was going to be this big. I would have organised more sport things for children because every club closed down. Also I would've opened up the libraries for children who don't have a quiet place to study.' (Girl, 17, The Netherlands)

Access to internet

While only 13% of all children said that they had hardly any or no access to internet, and more than half (55%) had regular access, certain sections are disproportionately lacking access to basic internet sources. 62% of children in detention centres, refugee camps and homeless centres said they had no access or hardly any access to internet. Children identifying as migrants and asylum seekers have also significantly lower access (38% and 27% respectively).

Sources of information

Family members (62%) and traditional news outlets (59%) are the preferred sources of information on the coronavirus. Children showed scepticism to information given by friends or in social media; 83% and 75% (respectively) of children said they didn't use these sources.

Positive experiences

Many children reported that they are unaffected and some say that things were better for them during Coronavirus. Lots of children enjoyed having more time to spend with their family. Children told us that not being at school provided opportunities to learn new hobbies and to relax.

For other children, not having to attend school meant they felt safer, for example, in school or their local communities, and less anxious about speaking out in class.

Some children felt that lockdown was a good thing because it meant there was less pollution and that could help to slow down climate change.

Negative experiences

However, other children reported negative experiences since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. Many children said they missed school, their friends and other members of their family. For some children this had a significant impact on their mental health.

Children also spoke about missing physical closeness and hugging their family and friends, missing out on key milestones such as birthdays and graduation.

About the #CovidUnder19 initiative

In the Spring of 2020, the initiative launched the “Life Under Coronavirus” global survey to understand children’s experiences of the Covid-19 pandemic and their views on how they wish to get involved. The survey was designed with children, for children aged between 8 to 17 years available in 27 different languages alongside an easy to read version. It received an overwhelming response with more than 26,000 children participating worldwide. A shorter poll focusing on issues of protection, safety and peer-to-peer support was also disseminated via UNICEF’s U-Report leading to additional 5000 responses from children.

"I'm getting the opportunity to raise my voice at a time where it has never been needed more, let's all do this together and raise our voice a little louder," said Kenizeh-Juliette, 14, from Pakistan.

The survey was developed in collaboration with international partners including the Office of the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Violence Against Children among others and involved a diverse group of children from 28 countries at all stages including drawing conclusions and developing key messages.

The #CovidUnder19 Life Under Coronavirus survey was designed in the spirit of the United Nations Convention on Rights of Child. The Centre for Children's Rights at Queen's University, Belfast, employing their unique children's rights-based methodology, designed the survey and analysed and reported the results, working at every stage with children and young people and other partners to make sure that the survey and findings were produced with children for children.

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