Closer family ties have resulted due to the Lockdown Scenario.

Various parts of society have been affected in differing ways by the current COVID-19 pandemic. Funding and support are given to areas in most need, but does Generation Alpha need more help?

Children and Families Minister; Vicky Ford, remarked that there was no denying that children were finding the pandemic difficult in the latest version of the State of the Nation Report. Ms Ford focussed of the mental health issues that were increasing for some children.

It was mentioned within the report that isolation from friends, learning from home and worries about people catching the virus were the main challenges which children were struggling to cope with. With more online hours for home education and only one-third of primary age children having regular contact with their peers it is expected that this will be a downward trend.

Instead of learning in the classroom, interacting with and learning interaction skills with their peers, social media and virtual learning has become embedded into the lives of children. Concerns that were already being raised regarding the amount of technology use and the long-term effect of this, have intensified.

This is in part due to the expertise of a biologist and television presenter; Professor Robert Winston who was witnessed on the news discussing how children were spending more time online. Online books rather than paper ones, google assistance providing immediate answers to questions and the streaming of movies meant that children and young people were already spending several hours per day online.

Zooming in on the Issue

With the new Zoom meetings instead of classrooms and web-based apps to replace paperwork, time spent attached to devices almost doubled for pupils during the first lockdown. As more schools have adjusted to the new arrangements the current lockdown is expected to increase this internet time considerably.

The Professor referred to risks related to spending so much time online, which included depression and strange behaviours. However, the research does not all support this view, so is it inevitable that mental health and behavioural difficulties will inhibit the children of the pandemic?

The Good Childhood Report has been completed annually by the Children’s Society and paints another picture. This research shows that children under ten years old are resilient to the changes of the pandemic, with older children being most affected by the mental health instability.

Why then are younger children managing this change so much better than older children?

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Since the first lockdown 25% of families have stated that there has been an increase in the fulfilment gained from their relationships at home.

One reason could be that children of Generation Alpha (born between 2010 and 2024) were born into a time of extraordinary technological advances, monumental children’s rights and a society that is more diverse than it has ever been before. A time when google was already the go-to for answers rather than teachers, when the variety of household make-up is in abundance and opportunities are wide and far ranging.

Several demographic researchers put focus on the natural ability of this generation to adapt to technology, stating that increased digital literacy has become an innate function for children. As the oldest children in this new Generation are eleven years old, this Generation Alpha characteristic could potentially explain why those aged between 5 and10 are more resilient to the new way of life compared to those aged 11 – 24.

What is not mentioned in recent campaigns regarding children and young people’s mental health during these lockdowns is that there was already a significant drop in life satisfaction. When analysing the annual data informing The Good Child Report over the last decade, there was already a trend of lowering satisfaction in life, school, and friends prior to the pandemic. The most significant drop beginning in 2016.

Since the first lockdown 25% of families have stated that there has been an increase in the fulfilment gained from their relationships at home. It could appear that Generation Alpha have been given the opportunity for increased contentment. One home education assessor has also explained that families choosing to home educate has increased threefold as they feel that it is better for their family and matches their children’s learning style.

Therefore, have the children in fact benefitted rather than been disadvantaged by having things that they were unsatisfied with reduced? Is the pandemic creating a generation with mental health issues or has it paved the way for Generation Alpha to excel?

MACKAYAN: to be an alpha

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