I am a mom of two awesome children who teach me more than I ever thought possible. I love writing, exercise, movies, and LGBT advocacy.
This Pandemic Is Hurting Our Youth
Are We Surprised Kids Are Reaching Out More?
Calls to the Kids' Help Phone more than doubled between 2019 and 2020, soaring from 1.9 million calls, texts and online chats to 4 million similar contacts to counsellors at the organization. This newsflash hit the internet via Yahoo and other news sites in December 2020.
What does that tell us?
First of all, we could probably reach the conclusion fairly rapidly that our youth are hurting big time as a result of COVID-19 and the implications go far beyond the fear of potentially acquiring the virus. Youth are social creatures, and it could safely be argued that even the most introverted among them still need that sense of connection to others their own age. Do they know how to use the apps on their phones? Sure. They can Snapchat, Instagram and many other things quite effectively, though they might struggle in using apps associated with school at times. However, just because they can communicate with their peers through any one of a number of web-based or smartphone-based apps doesn't mean that it's even a good idea to have kids communicate pretty much solely through those means.
Even adults will admit that, once the immediate concerns about COVID-19 are done and we can start congregating in greater numbers again if they're invited to another meeting on Zoom or another similar platform, it'll be too soon. Human beings need that sense of connection with each other, and I'm sorry, but connecting via a smartphone or laptop or tablet-based app and trying to socialize through those means doesn't cut it. The same energy isn't there, responses aren't as immediate, and quite frankly, you get a much stronger sense of connection when you can actually see someone "in real life," if you will.
Kids know this. They have a drive to hang out with each other in one way or another, and in reality, they learn how to grow and develop and appropriately socialize when they're able to hang out with each other. Is it perfect? Absolutely not. However, there's something unnatural when as a teacher you're telling two students who are walking together in the hall to split apart, or you're telling kids not to give each other a hug, or even give each other a high five.
We're in a world right now where everything that is so inherent to a kid's life has really been taken from them. They can't participate in the extracurricular activities that had been so much a part of their existence. Group work? Largely gone. Hanging out in the cafeteria and working in a large table on homework, laughing and joking around while other kids did the exact same thing at any number of tables around them was also done.
I realize that there will come a moment in our history where we look back on this pandemic period and realize that, while incredibly tough, it was survivable. There are things we all need to do right now to be safe. However, our youth need their peers beyond the digital realm, and when that's the only recommended method of connecting with each other, it's little wonder there's a sense of isolation that could be contributing to poorer mental health among our youth - and likely our adults as well.
According to the Yahoo article, almost half the calls come from Ontario, and then Alberta and British Columbia. A sense of isolation has driven many to call, and loneliness calls are up 50 percent from pre-pandemic rates. As connected as we all are with our smartphones and our technology, it would seem that we are incredibly disconnected in the midst of this pandemic.
Is there an answer to all this? Ontario, Canada is currently on a lockdown of sorts, which flies in the face of what some experts have recommended. A recent report from Sick Kids stated quite plainly that "The community-based public health measures (e.g., provincial lockdown, school closures, stay-at-home orders, self-isolation) implemented to mitigate COVID-19 and “flatten the curve” have significant adverse health and welfare consequences for children and youth. Though unintended, some of these consequences include decreased vaccination coverage, delayed diagnosis and care for non-COVID-19 related medical conditions, and adverse impact on their physical health as well as social development and mental health."
Are we surprised, then, that calls to Kids' Help Phone have soared?
And the longer the current situation with lockdowns and school shutdowns go on, it's got the potential to get worse before it gets better.