How are children coping with social distancing, school closures and the challenges caused by COVID-19?
The HAPPEN team recognise that this is an important time in children’s lives. Their normal, day-to-day routines have been disrupted with the lack of school and many of their parents at home. This may be having a significant impact on young people’s health and wellbeing.
This is why the HAPPEN Primary School Network launched its HAPPEN At Home Survey; to give children a voice so that they can tell people their experiences during COVID-19. This information will be used to plan what needs to be put in place to help and support young people. The survey asks the children about physical activity, wellbeing and how they are staying connected with friends, family and school.
Early findings show lockdown may be a positive experience for children. Insight from the first 450 pupils shows that children are being more active; 58% report that they are doing an hour or more of activity on 5+ days compared to 37% before lockdown. It may be that they have more free time to play and more time to be active with their families. As well as this, children also feel safer in their areas (84% report feeling safe playing in their area now compared to 76% before lockdown). With less traffic on the roads and less groups congregating, it may be that children now feel safer. This may have also increased where they go to be active if they feel safer in their communities.
Children are also sleeping more; 83% report having 9 and a half hours a night compared to 62%. This could be because they are being more active or perhaps, they are lying in longer rather than waking to get to school.
There are some negative impacts of lockdown. Screen time has increased. Over half (54%) now report watching screens for more than two hours a day compared to 36% before. Home schooling may underpin this. Parents may be using tablets and laptops to help educate their children. Parents may also be using screens to occupy their children while they work from home.
Less children are also brushing their teeth twice or more a day (62% compared to 76%). Disruptions to daily routines could be one reason for this.
Children are worrying the same as they ever had. A total of 64% say they worry a lot, but this is the same as prior to lockdown. They also report that they are happier now; 91% say they are happy with their lives compared to 81% before lockdown. Increased time with family members could account for this, alongside being more active. Activity is associated with improved mood and wellbeing.
Findings from the HAPPEN at Home Survey can have significant impacts for the future. Valuing physical activity and play should be high on the agenda for young people as the wider impacts are vast. There are already calls for outdoor learning approaches to be adopted more widely in schools when pupils return. HAPPEN’s previous research has shown this can be a valuable tool. Workplaces should also prioritise work/life balance as spending more time with families will also impact on children’s wellbeing.
HAPPEN aims to bring together education, health and research to help schools have a better understanding of pupil’s physical, psychological, emotional and social health to enable everyone to work together to improve child wellbeing and academic achievement. Schools receive an individual report from HAPPEN to help with this. Over the last five years, HAPPEN has expanded to include over 300 schools and 12,000 children across Wales.
The HAPPEN At Home Survey is still recruiting. If you have or know a child between 8 and 11, please get them to take part. You can access the survey here: https://happen-wales.co.uk/thehappensurvey/.
HAPPEN would also love to see any videos of young people talking about their experiences which you can send to firstname.lastname@example.org.