Hamilton

Students fear COVID-19, Canadians think pandemic will hurt child education, reports say

One survey from Children's Healthcare Canada and an ongoing study from Brock University show that Canadians fear COVID-19 will impact children's education and that students are aware — and afraid — of the virus.

70 per cent of Canadians fear the COVID-19 pandemic will have long-term effects on children

A survey and ongoing study show that young people worry about how COVID-19 will impact their education. (Shutterstock/Halfpoint)

A survey from Children's Healthcare Canada (CHC) and an ongoing study from Brock University show that Canadians polled fear COVID-19 will impact children's education and that students are aware — and afraid — of the virus.

About 70 per cent of Canadians surveyed fear the COVID-19 pandemic will have long-term effects on children and will impact their education, according to the new Abacus Poll commissioned by CHC.

The data comes as schools in the Hamilton area and across the province reopen. Families, educators and students have all expressed concerns about the safety of schools and lack of details as class begin.

Canadians polled by Abacus worried about how the pandemic may affect children's mental health and social and emotional well-being.

Bruce Squires, president of McMaster Children's Hospital, said the findings are troubling.

"It helps us understand why children and youth, and especially parents and families, may experience anxiety and concern (as schools open)," he said.

"They see how important it is to get kids back to school, but they wonder about the type of environment their children are going back to."

The survey included 1,500 Canadians from July 27 to 29 and a random sample of panelists were invited to complete the survey from a set of partner panels (which are usually double opt-in survey panels blended to manage out potential skews in the data from a single source). The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is plus or minus 2.51 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

Overall, respondents said the pandemic has already affected kids. Here are some of the main figures:

  • Sixty-six per cent of Canadians polled worry COVID-19 will impact children's mental health and social and emotional well-being.
  • Sixty-two per cent of respondents said the pandemic has deepened the inequalities between families based on household income and wealth.
  • Fifty-one per cent of those surveyed think the virus has affected access to routine health and wellness visits for children and youth.

Squires said the concern about children's mental health ties into Canada's "very poor performance" internationally on adolescent suicide.

"The pandemic has inhibited the emotional development of children," he explained.

He hopes the federal government and the province will do more to include children and youth as a priority in their reopening plans.

Students afraid of COVID-19: ongoing study

Brock University is also reporting that most students surveyed in its ongoing study are afraid of the virus but want to return to class and have missed various elements of school, especially seeing friends.

"A lot of the children we talked to were really aware of the pandemic and of what you need to do to stay safe, and they were worried about other people not following the rules," Rebecca Raby, a Brock University professor of child and youth studies and the study lead, said in a release.

"It's important to recognize and honour children's knowledge and insights in their thinking right now."

Hallways in high schools like Ancaster Secondary Schools will have COVID-19 posters along the wall and stickers on the floor to promote physical distancing. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

The qualitative study started in early April and includes regular online interviews with 30 children and youth about their experiences at home during the pandemic, including online schooling.

The research team reports some broad trends about online learning experiences and back-to-school views, including:

  • Challenges with self-motivation because of learning on their own, finding the work uninteresting and finding themselves easily distracted online.
  • Concerns about not being ready for future grades because of time missed at school, especially among older children.
  • Worries about missing out in those cases where parents are keeping their children at home for the fall term.
  • Worries about safety logistics such as playing with peers during recess, sitting at desks, sharing supplies and space.
  • Feelings of loneliness during online learning and a desire to interact with peers.
  • Enjoyment about learning at their own pace and setting their own routines during online learning.
  • A few participants preferred working at home to avoid social difficulties at school.

Attention parents, students and teachers: We want to hear from you!

We hope you'll use this form to tell us about school conditions, how classes are going or whatever other pressing issues are on your mind this September in Hamilton, Niagara, St. Catharines and Burlington.

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