June 9, 2021
The current turmoil that India is going through due to COVID-19 is heart-breaking. Since 25 March 2020, Indians have been facing one challenge after another due to the pandemic. One of the measures to curb the virus spread was implementing the lockdown. Initially, it began with a 21-day countrywide lockdown. However, it continued for 3 to 4 months. During the second half of 2020, the lockdown was lifted and life was getting back to normalcy for the adult population.
However, children continued to stay home as the schools did not reopen due to safety concerns.
Lockdowns have been imposed again due to the second wave of COVID-19 by more than 25 state governments in India. A particular section that has been severely affected have been the children. Regular classes replaced by online classes, play time restricted to indoor games and increased dependency on gadgets have taken their toll on children’s wellbeing.
A lot has been said about how the parents and teachers feel about the current situation with respect to children. Not much attention has been paid to the perspective of the children.
During an interaction with other parents, varied opinions were exchanged about how the children were responding to the changed atmosphere in the country. In the present context, it was thought that a survey among children to understand their perception of the neo-normal situation which includes online classes, staying home and absence of real world interactions would be interesting.
In this study, the main research method to collect data was through a simple questionnaire prepared using Google Forms. Since the respondents were going to be children, the questions were framed in simple language. The questions were more focused on how the children responded to the situation psychologically.
The questionnaire had a mix of open and closed ended questions which covered topics ranging from staying indoors, online classes and restricted space. The questionnaire consisted of 13 questions out of which 2 questions remained open-ended, which children had to answer in their own words. The remaining 11 questions were closed-ended.
The questionnaire was shared through social media and was expected to get a sample size of at least 80 respondents. However, the response was beyond expectations with 185 responses collected within 48 hours. With an overall sample size of 185, the collected data was converted through data quantitative coding techniques to codes which facilitated data conversion and measurement of data. This stage was completed with the use of Microsoft Excel.
After analyzing the data collected, the following points were observed and noted down:
- When asked about the first thought that comes across the respondent’s mind when they hear the word ‘corona’, 54% of them chose ‘lockdown’ as the answer. A significantly high 37.8% of the respondents also said ‘fear’ was their first thought. This clearly shows that most of the respondents, who are between ages 6 to 17, experience helplessness and fear which may be due to their experience of losing a loved one, constant discussion in the family about the current situation and the media.
- About two-thirds of the respondents felt that the Covid times experience has been bad.
- Nearly half of the respondents, about 49% felt that the most difficult part of Covid times was to stay at home. A little more than one-fourth of the respondents claimed not meeting friends as their biggest difficulty during the Covid period. It is obvious that the respondents, who are children, are missing out on social interaction and play.
- Around three fourth of the respondents said they knew someone in their known social circles who was infected with COVID-19.
- The respondents were asked how they felt during the lockdown for which they could choose multiple options. Among the respondents, 45.5% admitted to being bored due to uncertain times. Significant number of respondents, around 20% agreed about feeling helpless, frustrated and lonely during the Covid situation. A small percentage of respondents of 10% each felt happy and relaxed during the lockdown.
- When asked about the school online classes, the respondents replied in positive. A whopping 47% of the respondents felt comfortable and 31% of the respondents said they were able to manage the online classes. About 22% of the respondents felt it was difficult to cope with the online classes. To a large extent, the online classes gained success because it managed to keep the children occupied instead of having nothing to do. When asked about eagerness to go to school, 95% of the children said they want to get back to regular school at the earliest. With this, it can be clearly assessed that children want to go back to regular school despite liking online classes simply because they are missing out on the social interaction that a regular school provides.
- Children have spent more than one year indoors, as of now. They were asked how they spent their time. They were allowed to choose multiple options. About 45.4% of the respondents answered that they watched many television programs. A significantly high number, about 37.8% of the respondents read books while 31.8% of the respondents tried their luck with new found hobbies like art and craft, dancing and learning an instrument through online classes. About 20.5% of the respondents indulged in sports activities which could be played indoors or within their residential area like badminton, cycling, etc.
- It is known that the COVID-19 situation has had an impact on all of us. Lockdown specifically has restricted movement and interaction. A significant impact on the children, who were the study’s respondents, was noted. About three-fourth of the respondents admitted to getting accustomed to following the new rules and regulations. A little more than half of the respondents claimed to have discontinued hobbies due to the restrictions in place. More than two-third of the respondents also admitted to having missed spending time and playing with their friends.
- On asking the respondents if their parents are stressed due to the current COVID-19 situation, 79% of the respondents admitted to it. Most often, discussions at home about the illness, loss of lives, loss of jobs, etc. amongst the elders often translate into children understanding the seriousness of the situation and observing that the elders are under stress.
- The respondents were asked what they would do once the lockdown was lifted. Almost half of the respondents admitted that they wished to go back to school once the lockdown is lifted. Some children specified they would go to school keeping in mind all the rules and regulations that are in place. An interesting observation was made that 35% of the respondents responded that they will continue to stay at home even if the lockdown is lifted. This may be because there is uncertainty with respect to the illness as such as the lockdown in the last one year has been reimposed due to the second wave. Third-wave is already in discussion which adds to the uncertainty. The fact that more than one-third of children want to continue staying indoors came as a big surprise.
Lockdowns have been in place since March 2020 to control the COVID-19 situation in India. It is known that children have been restricted to limited spaces, no outdoor activities and online learning. Through this study, it has been established that boredom and fear are two major factors that have impacted the children. Boredom has been largely attributed to lack of outdoor play and interaction with friends. On the other hand, fear among the children has been noticed due to the illness, death of close family members, rising unemployment and economic difficulties faced by the parents.
Alternatively, the positive side of the lockdown has been the online learning platforms. While most children have been able to adapt to online schooling, many of them have even invested time in learning new skills and hobbies. It is evident that the children wish to go back to school at the earliest as they miss the social interaction but are also completely aware about the safety protocols that are to be followed. However, a significant number of children also revealed that they would prefer to continue staying at home even if the lockdown is lifted, which seemed to be quite astonishing. This implies that children in lockdown are overridden by fear and helplessness, instead of hope and faith for a better future.