Is this the New Normal? – Examining the Impact of Covid-19 on Children and Youth
Updated: Oct 20, 2021
Even though children and youths face a lower risk of Covid-19 infection, the pandemic has undoubtedly impacted their everyday lives and their general well-being. School closures, shifts to online learning, restrictions in access to social circles and friends, and anxieties about academic performance have been some of the many challenges faced by children and youths during these times.
To understand these challenges better, the Singapore Children’s Forum (SCF) 2021/2022 conducted a learning session on 14 August, on the Impact of Covid-19 on Children and Youths. This was the second of four thematic sessions open to members of the public aged 13 to 18 years old. The speakers of the session were:
Kids’ Dream, a Hong Kong child-led organisation established in 2016, with members made up of children aged 18 and below. The group aims to garner awareness of the rights stipulated under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Child. As of 2021, the group comprises 114 members.
Mr Kwan Jin Yao, a Social Welfare PhD candidate at the University of California, Los Angeles’s (UCLA) Luskin School of Public Affairs. His work focuses on the psychological well-being of children and youths from low-income and marginalised families in Singapore.
Kids’ Dream shared the results of an online survey conducted in July 2020 with Hong Kong children. Its aim was to raise awareness of the issues the children were most concerned about during the Covid-19 pandemic to the government and relevant stakeholders. Kids’ Dream also wanted to show other children and youths that their experiences are valuable and that they have a medium through which they can be heard.
A majority (57%) of the 322 survey respondents were youths aged between 14 and 17 years old. Some key findings were:
43% of children could not play outdoors or participate in extra-curricular activities.
41% could not enjoy campus/school life
40% were falling behind in their academic progress
34% were worried about the possibility of being infected with the virus
The survey results were disseminated through press releases and covered by local newspapers. In carrying out this survey, Kids’ Dream members learnt lessons about the importance of sharing their opinions while bearing in mind the values of mutual respect, cooperation and responsibility.
Mr Kwan shared findings from a survey on the Impact of COVID-19 on Youth Ambitions and Civic Engagement, which was conducted with 551 respondents aged 13 to 21 years old. The pandemic’s impact on the Singaporean youths surveyed can be categorised into three broad themes (Note: Exact statistics were not shared as parts of the study is still ongoing):
Psychological and emotional well-being: Youths who had better emotional well-being were those who had good relationships with their family members, found new hobbies, as well as retained connections to their social circles. However, there were youths who experienced anxiety and restlessness. Others tried distracting themselves, often through social media, or tried meditation to calm themselves down but even then, many felt stressed.
Education and employment ambitions: Youths who initially had plans to go overseas for further studies or for exchange had these plans affected. School stressors led to poorer academic performance among some youths. The pandemic also impacted employment ambitions due to cancellations of internships and job offers. Some of them had to make changes to their career plans by looking at companies or industries which were less affected by the pandemic.
Civic engagement: Yet, despite the challenges they encountered, there were youths who responded to the socio-economic needs and inequalities they saw within society during the pandemic. Some took on pre-existing initiatives that called for government-led structural changes, while others created their own initiatives that sought to complement the government and fill gaps in our social safety net.
Overall, there were parallels in the experiences of youths in Hong Kong and Singapore, especially where academic stress and issues with mental wellbeing are concerned. Mr Kwan further acknowledged that, while both survey results were not entirely surprising, they highlight that work still needs to be done, and that there is a need for us to continually engage with the youths and enable them to articulate their difficulties.
The content session was insightful in putting a spotlight on the key issues that children and youth are facing amid the ongoing pandemic. This would in turn be useful in helping the SCF core group of youths in planning their next steps and future initiatives.
Article contributed by Ms Reya Ramdev.