A SIGNIFICANT proportion of children were enduring a "sedentary lifestyle" during lockdown which may have "long term impact" on their health and well being, warned new research into the state of the nation.

A survey involving over 10,000 children across the country between April and June, has laid bare the devastating effect the coronavirus pandemic has had on the lives of the children of Scotland.

It found a consistent number of children - over one in three in June that indicated there are lots of things they worry about while more than half (56% in June) expressed a general concern about "the future".

Anxiety was one of the most common mental health problems that a child might experience.

Over the three months, half of those asked said they were worried about their family was doing, and over one in four reported five or more worries from options provided.

The Public Health Scotland and Scottish Government-backed How Are You Doing examination carried out by them Children's Parliament, Scotland's centre of excellence for children’s participation and engagement, outlined a range of evidence that lockdown was linked to social isolation and a drop in health and well-being.

Children indicated a decline in mental health with one in three unable to agree that they generally felt cheerful and in a good mood. Those who strongly disagreed rose from 11% in April to 13% in June.

A significant number of children reported a sedentary lifestyle and having less energy during lockdown "that may have longer term impacts on physical activity, health and wellbeing", the study said.

More than one in five did not agree they had plenty of energy while over one in four did not agree they got enough exercise with around three in four saying computer games were helpful during lockdown.

And most children did not like the home-learning model during lockdown and struggled to engage with just over half agreeing they often felt bored.

HeraldScotland: John Dickie

John Dickie, director of Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland said the analysis showed that ministers had to urgently act for the future well-being of the nation's children.

“This survey highlights just how vital it is that policy makers and service providers listen to the voices of children as schools reopen and Scotland builds toward social renewal. We know from our work that children in families struggling on low incomes faced particular challenges engaging with school during lockdown, and that maintaining mental health was a real concern."

Its own survey of 3000 parents and 1000 young people found that 40% of those in low-income families were missing at least one essential resource to support their children's learning.

Mr Dickie added: "We need to listen to their experience and ensure lessons are learned so that all families have the resources they need to ensure their children can fully re-engage at school, with friends and in their communities.

"We must act now to prevent a generation of childhoods being blighted by lack of resources and worries over money.”

The Children's Parliament study found a fall in the proportion of children who reported that learning at home made them feel good - from 33% in April to just 26% in April.

Meanwhile nearly one in three said exams were a worry, and 43% said in June they worried about doing school work.

The Children's Parliament said that if any model of home or blended learning is to be used in the coming months in Scotland, the experience of children revealed in the study shows "there is much work to be done to improve what is offered and how children are supported".

It added: "Likewise, as children return to school on a full-time basis, there is a need for educators to acknowledge the child's experiences and think about what this means for their return to school-based learning."

"The survey results should inform considerations being given to how we mitigate the immediate concerns there are for children as a result of lockdown, and also inform the medium to longer term road out of lockdown - what we might consider as a period of recovery."

The Herald revealed concerns about the education of Scotland's children amongst parents in June, as analysis of the experiences of over 2000 parents revealed two thirds of parents complained their school was not providing online lessons during the coronavirus lockdown.

Organised by the National Parent Forum of Scotland, the poll found that some 62% reported that their school had not provided online lessons, either live or recorded, for children while confined to the house.

The revelations emerging from a poll of the parents found the biggest challenge faced by parents when supporting learning from home was balancing work with supporting the children (48%), motivating kids to learn (23%) and not having enough resources and/or support from the school (12%).

HeraldScotland:

NPFS chairman Joanna Murphy said there had been a "real inconsistency" over educational delivery between local authorities and that there would be no excuse over a lack of planning when children return to school.

The new study targets the feelings of children directly, and aims to give a national lockdown picture on a range of areas from home life, to learning in lockdown, to mental and physical health, family and peer relationships.

It emphasised the need to consider the impact of lockdown on 12 to 14 year old girls, in particular.

The analysis said they were more likely to feel bored during lockdown, to feel lonely and to say that that there are a lot of things that they worry about in life and and their own health.

The analysis also showed a "statistically significant" drop in how much children enjoyed being with their families during lockdown. In April and May 92% said they did enjoy being with their their parents and siblings, while this had dipped to 90% in June.

Paul Carberry, Action for Children's director for Scotland, said: “It is clear this pandemic has triggered a crisis for mums, dads and children on an unprecedented scale and this study chimes with many of the accounts our frontline staff are hearing from families on a daily basis.

“As we begin to take steps out of lockdown, huge numbers of children will need extra support, over the coming months, which we are actively playing our part in. Despite this many parents are telling us they don’t know where else to turn for other support. As the immediate health crisis passes we now need to turn our attention to the scars coronavirus has left on families struggling with a whole new reality."

One in four of Scotland's children are recognised as living in poverty, and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation reported that almost a third of Scots' incomes have reduced in lockdown, with half of affected renters worried about paying rent.

The Children's Parliament report said that children were not immune from understanding and worrying about the financial circumstances and pressures their families face.

Across the three months over one in four reported that their parents/carers worry about having enough money for their family, with younger children more likely to raise concern.

HeraldScotland:

There was also a statistically significant decline in the proportion of children who said that while they were having a difficult time, they felt they would be okay, dropping from 72% in April to 67% in June.

And nearly one in five reported a worry about not being able to play or be create, while around one in four did not agree that they think they make health choices in their life.

The report noted: "The quality of our relationships with others matters and as we emerge from lockdown and children can socialise again they take their lockdown experiences with them; these need to be considered as we support children to re-engage with these important interpersonal relationships.

Meanwhile a "significant number" - over one in four - agreed that they felt lonely and there was a decline in the numbers of children who reported having "fun things to do in their days".

And across the lockdown period children were less likely to "try their hardest" or feel pride in what they do.

But there remained personal confidence across all children that they knew they were things they were good at, with over 90% agreeing.

HeraldScotland:

Although on the decline, around 87% agreed that they were proud of the things they can do.

The Children's Parliament was established in 1996 to support the Scottish Government, local authorities and other public bodies to fulfill their legal obligations to promote and protect the human rights of everyone and fulfill their duty of care toward children.

 

A Scottish Government spokesmans said: “We know lockdown is putting a strain on the mental health and wellbeing of many children and young people and have been working closely with all health boards to maintain the integrity and quality of Children’s Adolescent and Mental Health Services (CAMHS) services across Scotland throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. We have also provided £2 million of new funding to local authorities to support the planning and development of new community mental health and wellbeing services for 5-25 year olds, their families and carers.

“As children and young people return to school, wellbeing should be at the centre of considerations and we have been working to encourage children to stay active for the physical and mental health benefits that brings.

“We have provided £5.8 million of additional funding to create new online support services and increase the capacity of existing ones including resources on mental health and wellbeing available on Young Scot’s website and social media, the digital resource Mind Yer Time by Scottish Youth Parliament and Children’s Parliament and content around mental health on Parent Club including free access to Solihull Online for parents and carers.”