Mental Health And Wellbeing Of Children And Adolescents During The Covid-19 Pandemic

Be it your local grocery runs or paying bills, Covid-19 forced all of us to go digital in every aspect of life.

We live in the 21st century which is highly mobilised via the internet. Every individual has access to it and the world has become a smaller place. Social media and e-commerce have revolutionised the way we interact and shop today. Since its inception, the internet has given birth to innumerable technological reforms such as virtual reality, mechanised robots, digital currency, et cetera. Are all of these reforms healthy for human consumption? That’s debatable. However, with the introduction of a global pandemic, the internet has only become more powerful.

Be it your local grocery runs or paying bills, Covid-19 forced all of us to go digital in every aspect of life. It allowed for zero human interaction and our lives were restricted to a computer screen. It is relatively easier for an adult to adjust to an environment like this. However children, on the other hand, prefer physical socialisation of all sorts. Basic activities such as going to school, playing with their friends, participating in extra-curricular activities is a part of their daily lifestyle. When all of this is taken away from them, they get irritated and start throwing fits. This outburst of rage and frustration forces them to act out of order which ultimately has a huge impact on their mental health.

Schooling and primary education play a critical role in a child’s overall development. In the case of academics, even the best of apps can’t promise the same level of guidance as provided by a teacher in school. Moreover, children are constantly exposed to connectivity issues which further disrupts the flow of a chapter. Apart from academics, a child picks up multiple life skills at school. With everything becoming digital, it becomes difficult for a child to grasp these social skills. Except for these traditional problems, the online learning system induces a sense of laziness in a child’s mind. Since he isn’t in the physical setting of a school, he tends to lose his sense of discipline. Unmanageable schedules, sloppy appearance, reduced concentration, and irregular attendance are some of the major obstacles that stand in the way of a child’s personal, academic growth.

According to the findings provided by Unicef, youth, and young women from lower-income countries are bound to suffer intensely when it comes to receiving digital education in a pandemic. A global survey among young people and adolescents highlights that despite the best efforts of educational institutions to provide continuity through online delivery, 65% of young people report having learnt less since the pandemic began, and 51% believe their education will be delayed.

Education, for many young girls in India, served as the only escape from all the obsolete societal norms and beliefs. The school was treated as the temple of knowledge by them.

However, it couldn’t sustain the after-effects of a deadly pandemic. The lockdown caused an exodus of migrant workers fleeing urban towns as survival in such towns became super expensive, the labour class was unable to afford the expenses offered by these metropolises. The government too was focused on battling the deadly virus as the daily infection rate crossed a whopping 2 lakh mark in 2021.

In such scary times, young children were exposed to a lot of negativity. Many lost their parents and were left homeless whereas some experienced high levels of sexual and physical torture. Looking at the global figures, UNFPA estimates an increase in the number of unintended pregnancies by 15.46 per cent (44,322) in the best-case scenario, and potentially by up to 23.9 per cent (68,541) in 2020-2021 based on the extrapolation of administrative data. Of these unintended pregnancies, 35 per cent are expected to occur among females 15 to 24 years of age.

Adolescence is all about developing social skills, empathy and a sense of identity - none of which can be achieved within isolation. You know what they say, ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way’. We, as a society, need to prioritise this issue and look for possibilities that don’t hamper the growth of our children.

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