Almost half of the children surveyed by the Office of the Ombudsman for Children (OCO) say that the Covid pandemic has significantly changed their lives, with 83 per cent of those surveyed reporting that it had a negative impact on their learning.
No Filter: A Survey of children’s Experiences of the Covid Pandemic, conducted by OCO in conjunction with Amarach Research, also reveals that 74 percent of children experienced feelings of loneliness during the pandemic, while 76 percent experienced levels of worry .
“Adults have said a lot during the pandemic about how the experience of the last two years has impacted children, but this survey is an opportunity to hear directly from children about how they feel their lives have been affected,” Dr. Niall Muldoon, Ombudsman for Children, said, commenting on the report.
“As we adjust to life without restrictions, we wanted to take a snapshot in time and record, while it was still fresh in their minds, how the children felt they coped with the extraordinary situation they found themselves in.” .
The survey heard from 1,389 children aged nine to 17 across the country who attend Deis, non-Deis, Gaelscoileanna and private primary and secondary schools.
Worryingly, the survey revealed that 14 percent of children received no help from parents or guardians with their online schoolwork, while 42 percent of children’s parents or guardians could only help “with times”. Meanwhile, 28 percent of students had missed more than two weeks of school since September 2021 due to testing positive for Covid or due to isolation guidelines.
But while children recognized the negative impact Covid had on learning and communication with teachers, it was extracurricular activities that were missed the most, with 60 per cent of children reporting that school restrictions have impacted “a lot”. in activities such as training, trips, choir or theater.
Nearly two-thirds of children also reported increased use of screen time, including TV, Netflix and YouTube, and this does not include time spent online for schoolwork.
Children were invited to share any other comments they had about the pandemic during the survey. While some positive aspects of the past two years were acknowledged, such as spending more time with parents, guardians, and siblings, and enjoying time outdoors, responses primarily emphasized the negative and potentially long-lasting impact of COVID-19 on children. kids.
One nine- to 11-year-old girl said: “The pods made school not so much fun because you couldn’t interact as much as you used to and the masks made it really hard for me because you couldn’t see people’s faces during class, Which made it more difficult.” understand people, especially teachers, during class time”.
A boy between 12 and 14 years old said: “I was never able to live properly in the first year of high school. Many of the teachers are doing their best to teach us, but some of us are struggling. . . To be honest, sometimes I feel like I’m drowning under all the work, pressure, and doubts.”
Another boy between 15 and 17 years old said: “My social skills have deteriorated a lot and I get anxious in crowded places, I burn out faster in the company of others. I care less about school.”
A boy between the ages of 15 and 17 said that “it had a huge impact on my mental health. I developed depression and was later diagnosed with an eating disorder. I don’t think the pandemic was the only reason for this, but it certainly contributed.”
In more positive findings, in the spring of 2022, now that restrictions have been lifted, 54% of children surveyed reported feeling happy now and nearly 40% felt hopeful.
“The survey has yielded some interesting and in some cases worrying insights, particularly in relation to some of the children’s comments,” said Dr. Muldoon. “With just under half of the children surveyed saying that the pandemic had changed their lives ‘a lot’, it is clear that more work remains to be done to fully understand the true impact of the last two years on our children and young people.
“Listening directly to children and young people and ensuring that their views are given due weight is an important part of my job as an Advocate for Children, and I will work hard to ensure that the powerful messages shared in this survey inform what we do and are heard by decision makers and politicians alike”.