“Long COVID” may come to mean more than just a health problem
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on children have been highlighted in a recent post on the London School of Economics and Political Science’s Parenting for a Digital Future blog. By interviews carried out across six European countries, this shows the increasing inequalities experienced by those in lower socio-economic groups, while the effects of social distancing and the move to online teaching has affected the well-being of children across the board.
The digital divide, with lack of access to digital devices, is a fundamental barrier to online learning, and with parents having to adopt part of the role of teachers to help their children to learn, fewer digital skills, often a lack of a quiet room for learning, and poor connectivity further compound this disadvantage in lower socio-economic groups. This has led to learning losses that will both perpetuate and increase existing inequalities.
The speed of change brought about by the pandemic, and the necessary move to online learning has meant that children have had to spend huge amounts of time in front of screens, with both learning and socialising having to be carried out online, affecting both mental and physical well-being.
The move back to school has to be welcomed, bringing with it the chance to socialise with friends, have face-to-face teaching and be more physically active. However, the growing “third wave” of the virus currently being seen in continental Europe, and the possibility that it could in time make its way to the UK, presents the risk of a return to online learning.
Digital inequality remains very much a problem that needs urgently to be addressed. Only in tackling the lack of access to digital devices, connectivity and digital skills can we build a society that is more resilient, where people’s life-chances are not curtailed by digital poverty. Let’s ensure that the long-term legacy of the pandemic is a levelling up of digital inclusion, not long-term damage to life chances.