Where did the thinking start?

International Research Team: What Do Children Around The World Know And Think About COVID-19?

26.03.2021

Scientists from Spain, the UK, Brazil, Australia, Canada and Sweden asked children around the world what they know and think about Covid-19. Most knew a lot, and some complained, among other things, that adults were downplaying the danger to people towards them.

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During the pandemic, children will be separated from family and friends, schools will be closed and important activities such as playing will be restricted.

Much is already known about the physical consequences of COVID-19 on children. However, the effects on their mental and emotional wellbeing from the perspective of the children themselves are less well understood.

The study recently published in PLOS ONE shows, according to the authors, the importance of listening to children, what they have to say and what information they want about COVID-19.

The international study included children from six countries - Great Britain, Spain, Canada, Sweden, Brazil and Australia.

The experts recruited the children through their professional and social networks, for example sports groups and other clubs. Children aged seven to 12 were asked, among other things, how they received information about COVID-19, what they know about the virus and whether they understood why they should stay home.

Different restrictions

The participating children were subject to different restrictions. Tasmania, where the Australian arm of the study was conducted, had the highest restrictions. A total of 49 children from Tasmania took part in the survey and 390 children from other countries.

There were significant differences between countries in how the survey was conducted. The number of reported illnesses and deaths due to COVID-19 varied. The reactions of governments to this and the extent of the restrictions were also not comparable.

For example, reported deaths and illnesses were much higher in countries like the UK and Brazil than in Australia. In Sweden children continued to go to school, while most children in other countries studied from home.

Similar experiences in some areas

In different countries there were many similarities in the things that are important for children, what they had to say and what they wanted to know. But there were also differences between countries and between children.

More than half of the children said they knew a lot or quite a lot about COVID-19. Your comments included:

  • "It's a stupid virus."
  • "It's spreading very quickly."
  • "People downplay it and tell me it can't kill people, but I know people die every day."

But they also had questions:

  • "How and where did it start?"
  • "What does the coronavirus actually look like?"
  • "How does it make a person sick?"

Some said they didn't want to know anything more about the virus:

  • "It is boring."
  • "I don't want to know about it because it kills people and that makes me sad."

Children expressed different feelings about COVID-19. They said they felt "concerned", "scared", "angry" and "confused".

Children knew that the virus was particularly dangerous for people in need of protection:

  • "It can potentially kill the old and the sick."

And they missed their friends and family:

  • "When can we go back to school?"

Most of the information comes from parents

Children received information about COVID-19 from various sources, but mostly from their parents and teachers. Adolescents also obtained information from friends, via television programs and on the Internet.

The children understood what everyone was asked to do. They had also learned the meanings of new words and concepts for them. So, they knew what social distancing meant and that they had to keep a five-foot-long distance.

Children had also understood important messages in this context, such as how to wash your hands, not to touch your face and to stay home to save lives.

Why is it important to know how children experience the corona pandemic?

Children make an important contribution to limiting the spread of the virus. They are / were no longer allowed to see relatives and friends and are / were clearly restricted in important activities that are part of their "normal" life. This should be recognized by the community and thanked for it.

International experts believe that children have the right to receive information in a form that is appropriate for their safety and wellbeing. Children need the opportunity to ask questions and learn what COVID-19 means for them and the adults they trust, including parents and teachers.

Children have questions

Children have questions about COVID-19. The questions are different for each child and not all children want the same amount of information.

Adults should use the time and space to talk to children. You can ask:

  • "What would you like to know?"
  • "What do you want to ask?"

Source: medicalXpress / The Conversation, PLOS ONE