A survey of children and young people in Aotearoa discusses how the impact of the Covid-19 lockdowns varied depending on their family situation, with those already disadvantaged usually faring worse, Children’s’ Commissioner Judge Andrew Becroft says.
Life in Lockdown, a survey of more than 1400 tamariki and rangatahi aged between 8 and 18, was undertaken by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner immediately after the level 3 and 4 lockdowns in March to May this year. It asked young New Zealanders about their living situation, relationships, learning, general wellbeing and how they spent their time during lockdown.
“The survey highlighted how Covid-19 can make existing inequalities worse, but also revealed some surprising upsides of lockdown, such as how much tamariki and rangatahi valued spending more time with their whānau,” Commissioner Becroft says.
“We learned that young people really valued time with their family. When we are thinking of what to give our kids for Christmas this year, maybe it’s more of our time.
“This also sends a powerful message to policy makers, that if they’re really interested in improving life for young people, then solutions for freeing their parents and caregivers to spend time with them is really important.
“I loved spending time with my family because I feel I could relate to them more than I could before.” (12-year-old girl)
“A third of students described strengthened family relationships as the one positive thing about COVID-19 lockdown. In addition, nearly half told us that their relationships with whānau and friends improved during lockdown.
“On the other hand, when asked what the worst thing about lockdown was, relationships also rose to the top. About half replied that, along with missing friends, tough family dynamics or annoying siblings were what made lockdown most difficult.
”Being able to stay home was good, but I missed my friends … So it’s sort of in the middle.” (13-year-old boy)
Digital inequality was also highlighted by the survey. About 22 percent of respondents in weighted results did not have access to their own device and 3 percent had no access to a device. Māori and Pacific children were even less likely to have access. This was one of the many challenges and opportunities shared through the report that learning online during lockdown presented to children and young people.
The survey also asked a range of questions exploring how overall wellbeing had changed since our last survey in 2018. The results sometimes depended on a young person’s school decile.
Overall, the wellbeing of most of the children and young people we heard from was higher than responses to those same questions from students in 2018, but wellbeing was not experienced equally. Students from lower decile secondary schools reported consistently lower wellbeing than those from higher decile schools.
Patterns of wellbeing also varied between students from higher and lower decile schools. In 2020, a lower proportion of students from decile 1-5 schools agreed, or strongly agreed that they ‘feel fit and healthy’, ‘have opportunities to build skills and knowledge for my future’, and ‘get to do fun activities in my spare time,” while a much higher proportion of students from higher decile schools agreed or strongly agreed with the same elements of wellbeing.
“A concerning finding is the overall low level of students that agree, or strongly agree that ‘I can cope when things get hard’ as well as the signficantly lower response for secondary school students compared to responses in 2018. Surprisingly, a much lower proportion of decile 6-10 students agreed they could cope, than in 2018.
“These results show how important it is for policy makers to recognise the different pressures on families and address the underlying issues of poverty that drive so many inequalities. It also shows the urgent need to address mental wellbeing of young people in Aotearoa New Zealand.
“Step mum had to look after 10 kids while dad had to work” (11-year-old Pacific girl)
“Crucially, our research demonstrates how vital it is to seek the views of children and young people when making policy that affects them. That’s their right, and it makes policy decisions better too,” Commissioner Becroft says.
Life in Lockdown, and more information about our Mai World initiative can be found here: https://www.occ.org.nz/publications/reports/life-in-lockdown/