- According to Healthline, long-term social distancing can damage children’s social development. Virtual social interactions don’t offer the same levels of intimacy as actual person to person connections for adolescents, according to psychologists. This could dramatically decrease their opportunities for new experiences and self-discovery.
- Many high schools in the U.S. are postponing graduation ceremonies for this 2020 class and some are canceling them completely. Parent and students are understandably devastated that their academic achievement and hard work may go unrecognized, according to USA Today.
- Schools, forced to close due to the pandemic, have switched to online instruction. Technology gaps and financial challenges are leaving some students behind. One teacher in Philadelphia reported that at least 25% of her students were failing to attend online lessons or complete homework because of the absence of Wifi or had to spend time working or caring for siblings or other relatives.
- Stuck at home, many children are physically less active, have sleep disruptions and eat less healthy food. More than 220 million children in China are forced to stay at home. This confinement poses potential risks to mental and physical health according to The Lancet journal.
- Amid social distancing measures and stay at home orders, children around the globe are experiencing universal longing for those quintessential childhood experiences that they are missing out on. They have been drawing pictures of things they miss most: time with grandparents, schoolmates, sports, flowers, and more, as was published in a Reuters article.
- Reuters reports that child abuse hotline calls in the U.S. have dropped by as much as 70% since social distancing. This is concerning, because authorities fear that the signs and symptoms of abuse and neglect are going undetected while at home all day.
- On lock down since mid-March, the government in Spain only permitted adults to leave their homes for essential reasons, like grocery shopping and medical supplies. However, children in that country were banned from leaving their homes entirely. After 6 weeks and much protest, children are now permitted to play outside for one hour each day with adult accompaniment.
- Approximately 8 million children live in orphanages worldwide, according to Hope and Homes for Children. They warn that staff shortages due to the pandemic, are putting children at increased risk of abuse, harm and infection.
- Child welfare authorities worry that a lack of foster or resource homes may leave some children out on the street or confined to overcrowded shelters. Some foster parents in the U.S. have stopped accepting new children into their homes out of fear that they may spread the virus to their families, according to The Marshall Project.
- Prior to the pandemic, fewer than 9% of children spent the amount of time now expected for online instruction. With children stuck at home, one half of the children in the U.S. are now online for at least 6 hours every day on average. This is the data from a Parents Together poll of 3,000 parents released April 23, 2020. Parents are concerned that increased screen time could lead to addictions to social media and games, or that their kids may fall prey to cyberbullying and exploitation.
- A study published March 30, 2020, by the Obesity Society, researchers warn that this outbreak is exacerbating risk factors for childhood obesity. School closures and stay at home mandates create circumstances similar to summer recess, which often keeps kids sedentary, thus at greater risk for obesity or being overweight.
- After spending 3 months at home, one school in China saw students return to class wearing a new uniform that included hats with 3ft long piece of cardboard on them. This headgear is supposed to remind children to maintain social distancing from their classmates to prevent the spread of germs.
- In London, therapists are seeing children exhibit signs of regression, like nightmares and bed-wetting, during this pandemic, according to the Camden New Journal. Experts believe these behaviors are a response to isolation and increasingly stressed-out parents.
- The United Nations warns that the economic hardships brought on by this pandemic may result in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of children this year and increased infant mortality rates. The UN estimates that up to “66 million children could fall into extreme poverty” in 2020, on top of the 386 million children who were already in extreme poverty last year.
- Border closures and transportation matters related to this pandemic are creating vaccine shortages in at least 21 of the Earth’s poorer countries, as stated by the World Health Organization[WHO] General Director, citing data from the Vaccine Alliance. He warned that kids around the globe will die if they can’t be vaccinated against measles, polio, and other preventable diseases.
Being a few select examples of how children are being impacted, not only in this country, but around the world by this pandemic, our own boredom, and sense of ‘cabin fever’ should take a back seat to what children may face. It is the health and wellness of children for whom our strongest advocacy efforts deserve greater focus. We can pay close attention to them, monitor their reactions and behaviors to hear their voices. In this current ‘abnormal’ and ‘new’ normal, be mindful of the children. who continue to need to be presented with experiences offering optimal growth opportunities.
The children are among our most vulnerable population, whose best interests need be central in creating programs, policies and practices. Whatever we decide, or actions we take, consider how children will be impacted. Our concerns during this time of crisis, pale in comparison to the comprehensive needs of children. Hug your child, ask how he or she is feeling, talk, laugh and spend quality time together. Listen to their voices, and be observant of their actions. Most of all, be patient, be kind, and stay well….!