IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON CHILDREN
“Don’t be afraid of life’s challenges”. – Louisa May Alcott
The COVID‑19 pandemic is harming health, social and material well-being of children worldwide, with the poorest children, including homeless children and children in detention, hit hardest. School closures, social distancing and confinement increase the risk of poor nutrition among children, their exposure to domestic violence, increase their anxiety and stress, and reduce access to vital family and care services. Widespread digitalisation mitigates the education loss caused by school-closures, but the poorest children are least likely to live in good home-learning environments with internet connection.
Immediate government measures need to ensure that children have access to good food, receive protection against child abuse and neglect, have continued access to child physical and mental health services, and can navigate safely on the internet.
As the COVID‑19 crisis spreads around the world, it is transforming children’s day-to-day lives. The pandemic and the associated policy responses of confinement and social distancing touch on almost every part of children’s worlds. COVID‑19 directly affects formal care arrangements, education and leisure services offered by early childhood services, schools and other organisations are interrupted.
The COVID‑19 crisis is evolving in the context of widespread digitalisation. The majority of children, at least in OECD countries, are spending a significant chunk of their time online. Therefore, the availability of digital tools may mitigate some of the effects of the crisis: digital devices and internet access provide valuable resources for children, parents, authorities and caregivers to continue schooling and teaching. Digital tools also provide recreational activities as well as psychological and social support from outside. They facilitate social interactions among children and contribute to their digital savviness more generally
Moreover, increased digitalisation is likely to widen inequalities between children, as the poorest children are least likely to have a quiet place in their home to concentrate on their studies and have the tools to access on-line education. The effect of this “education gap” may belong-lasting. If appropriate action is not taken, the legacy of COVID‑19’s will be an even wider gap between advantaged and disadvantaged children.