In March last year, the Coronavirus forced schools worldwide to shut down and shift classes to digital platforms. Learners had to adapt and adjust to the new “normal” of education – studying using screens as computers, laptops, tablets and cellphones.
A year-and-a-half later, with the virus on the decrease and schools gradually reopening, there is some sense of normality coming in.
Online learning and the closure of schools for a longer duration of time have had some after-effects on children, especially their mental health and well-being.
Reports of lack of focus for long periods, such as not being able to interact with their classmates, lack of physical activity, no break from screen time and the disruption of social communication are most common.
According to Unicef, children have become withdrawn, irritated and agitated since the beginning of the pandemic last year.
At least 332 million children have their mental health and well-being at risk because of pandemic-induced lockdowns, warned Unicef.
Children have experienced stress due to the changes they have had to accommodate during the pandemic. Many have experienced heightened levels of distress and worry. For some, social relatedness has been affected due to the challenges of not being able to meet people in person.
According to the WHO (World Health Organization), the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted or halted critical mental health services in 93% of countries worldwide, while the demand for mental health support is increasing.
UN data shows that more than 214 million children – one in seven pupils globally – missed more than three-quarters of in-person learning.
Technology brings with it access to information and opportunities. We need to balance the time we spend on screens to ensure that we take care of our mental well-being through personal contact and a supportive social network. A child’s behaviour is a complex interplay of social, physical and emotional variables.
Children have also experienced heightened levels of distress and worry. For some, social relatedness has been affected due to the challenges of not being able to meet people in person. As the world attempts to achieve post-pandemic normality, the lives of many children will undergo more changes.
If you suspect that your child is suffering from mental health issues, help is available. Call the SA Depression and Anxiety Group on its 24hour Helpline 0800 456 789 or visit www.sadag.org.