Irish teens worry about futures, older relatives during Covid-19 pandemic

Ombudsman for children calls on young people to take part in #WhatIMiss campaign

A survey  among 16-18 year olds  reveals young people are finding it difficult to do school work at home while simultaneously worrying about the health and safety of their loved ones. Photograph: iStock

A survey among 16-18 year olds reveals young people are finding it difficult to do school work at home while simultaneously worrying about the health and safety of their loved ones. Photograph: iStock

 

Irish teenagers are struggling to keep up with class work through remote learning with some unable to access a laptop or smart phone to follow lesson plans, Ireland’s leading youth organisation has warned.

A digital survey carried out by Foróige among 16-18 year olds from around the country reveals young people are finding it difficult to do school work at home while simultaneously worrying about the health and safety of their loved ones.

The research found teenagers struggled to learn new material on their own without the support of peers or their teachers and felt stressed and anxious about the lack of clarity around when exams will take place.

Inequality of access to technology was also raised as an issue, with some participants reporting that they could not access a laptop or smart phone to do school work. Others living in rural areas underlined the additional challenges posed by poor broadband with many noting that it was difficult to use the computer when siblings and parents also need access to technological equipment.

Worry and anxiety about the state of the world during the Covid-19 pandemic was cited as the main preoccupation among young people, with many wondering what their future will look like once the emergency has passed.

‘Uncertain times’

“They are frightened for their older relatives and they find all the information overwhelming,” says Foróige. “While they are following the Government’s guidelines, they miss their friends and the social aspect of their lives.”

The results of the survey are not unexpected but still shocking, said Foróige chief executive Seán Campbell.

“These are really uncertain times for young people and it’s so important that we listen to them and provide safe platforms where they can connect with and support each other.”

Meanwhile the Ombudsman for Children’s Office has begun a social media campaign inviting young people to share their views on how the Covid-19 pandemic is affecting them. The #WhatIMiss campaign, which runs through the month of April, asks children and young people to comment on how the coronavirus lockdown has impacted on their home lives, their education and their right to play and rest.

“The past few weeks have been extremely difficult for children,” said Ombudsman for children Dr Niall Muldoon. “Their routines have been completely thrown out the window and we’re asking them to do things that they would not usually do.”

“Children’s lives have been utterly changed by what has happened, yet we have heard very little from them. We have been told to keep children at home, not to bring them to shops or public places if possible. They have been asked to sacrifice their freedom and development for the benefit of wider society, and they have stepped up to the plate.”

Weekly winner

The Ombudsman is calling on children and young people to get involved with the campaign by sharing a video, picture, post, meme or message expressing what they miss most, what they will appreciate when the crisis is over and what they would like adults to know.

Participants under 16 have been asked to take part via their parent’s social media account, with permission, by posting entries to the Ombudsman account on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

A weekly winner will be announced by a judging panel of young people with an overall winner announced at the end of the month, said the Ombudsman’s office.