Effects of Prolonged Home Confinement on Children
Covid-19 is an acute respiratory illness in humans caused by a coronavirus, capable of producing severe symptoms and in some cases death, especially in older people and those with underlying health conditions. It was originally identified in China in 2019 and became pandemic in 2020. To curb the spread of this virus, lock-downs and social distance protocols were initiated all over the world. This meant most of the public spaces were closed and people suddenly found themselves confined to their homes.
Home confinement has negative socio-psychological impacts on mental and physical health. Long term isolation creates negative emotions, impaired cognition, and stress (Hawkley and Capitanio, 2015). In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic negative impacts, a study conducted in Spain reported that adverse psychological effects have occurred on Spanish people, and women and young people suffered most (Rodríguez-Rey et al., 2020). Sleep quality is also negatively impacted by COVID-19. A study conducted by Xiao et al. (2020) reported a negative relationship between quality of sleep and psychological impacts. The WHO has recommended various protective measures to stop the transmission of COVID-19, and physical activity while staying at home is also one of the protective measures. Social isolation is essential as the global response to the pandemic of COVID-19 continues. In everyday tasks, the physical distance from others is conserved. The criteria for participation in physical activity have drastically changed. COVID-19 should have had a huge social impact as opposed to years of public safety lobbying.
COVID-19 pandemic and lock-down has brought about a sense of fear and anxiety around the globe. This phenomenon has led to short term as well as long term psycho-social and mental health implications for children. In young children the pandemic and lock-down have a greater impact on emotional and social development compared to that in the grown-ups. In one of the preliminary studies during the on-going pandemic, it was found younger children (6-9 years old) were more likely to form patterns of clingy behavior and the fear of family members being infected than older children (9-15 years old). Severe psychological conditions of increased irritability, inattention, aggression and clinging behavior were revealed by all children irrespective of their age groups (Viner et al., 2020). It was revealed that children felt uncertain, fearful, lonely and isolated during current times. It was also shown that children experienced disturbed sleep, nightmares, poor appetite, agitation, inattention and separation related anxiety (Jiao et al., 2020). With prolonged lack of access to education, health, and social services, young children, particularly those living in fragile and impoverished conditions, are at risk of not developing to their full potential.
Major Confinement Causes & Prevention
At the country level, the data from the survey will highlight the urgency of and inform policy actions around supporting young children and their families during the pandemic, including the need to increase the availability of learning materials at home, support caregivers’ and children’s holistic well-being, and support positive caregiver-child engagements. At the global level, the data can be aggregated to provide a cross-country view of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on young children and their families. It is hoped that the data will emphasize the need for a coordinated response to ensure that young children do not get left behind in local and global responses to the COVID-19 pandemic.
1.1 Forms of Anxiety
Due to disturbed daily activities and separation from family members as well as friends had led to various symptoms of forms of anxiety like fear of losing, increasing rate of Anxiety attacks, increasing nervousness, restlessness and low level of enthusiasm among children. Few researchers stated " Being impatient, irritable at the slightest provocation, my child has become irritable, She's started getting frequent anxiety attacks”.Ultimately resulting in an acute level of mental health issues for both the child as well as parents.
1.2 Disturbed Sleep
Acute level of imbalance in the daily routine of a child because of spending longer duration on screen, irregular eating and zero level of physical activities had adversely impacted the mental being of child which had led to distortion of sleeping patterns specifically in the night sleeping hours. Few studies stated " No proper schedule,late to bed, Disrupted sleep cycles, long duration of online gaming and chats and too much TV...not much physical exercises despite having fair bit of home equipment, Yes he has become very irritable, developed a bad sleeping schedule, always need gadgets, stopped listening to us”. Eventually ending up with extreme behavioral changes or mood swings ; becoming a concerning issue for both children as well the family members.
1.3 Temper Tantrums
Home confinement which had eventually led to isolation, irregular daily patterns have truly resulted into high disturbance in the Mental Wellness and have started expressing frequent behavioral changes like screaming, emotional outburst and melting down by the child when taught or said anything by the parent. Lellen Markrobes stated" Impatient, Feeling irritated on small things and restlessness throughout the day, She is addicted to TV, mobile. Any discipline by me leads to her crying and yelling. I am signing off when I see her with such symptoms”.
1.4 Lack of Physical and mental activities
Prolonged home confinement which had basically led to shutting down of all the outdoors; holding up children inside their houses had led to acute levels of distortion in the metabolism of the body as well as of musculoskeletal. Some of the children's parents also stated " Yes , sometimes as he wanted to go outside for physical activities and also for a refreshment which is not during home confinement, Spending more time on individual activities, more screen time and lesser time with friends, lesser physical activities”. Eventually all of these will end up in an increasing level of fatigue and distribution in mental growth of a child.
1.5 Increased Screen Time
Prolonged home confinement which had led to stoppage of schools, parks and all such recreational outdoors; resulted in high level of screen time for recreation as well as for basic education. On this some of the parents stated " yes as my child has become irritable. she does not spend time with family and is only on her phone talking to friends and watching movies due to this she does not get adequate sleep and has destroyed her sleep cycle completely, she does cry multiple times due to not going out, Too much screen time, yes what generally they should be doing in their current age how they should explore things rather than that they are more inclined to Using mobile and social media which is not good”. Hence, becoming the more concerning issue as this will eventually bring hindrance in both the mental as well as physical well-being and development of a child.
In psychological terms, a range of behaviors that impact or harm the physical as well as psychological well being of an individual with respect to oneself, others and the environment is termed as aggression. Various studies have been proposed on the basis of response of children in home confinement during the COVID-19 outbreak. One such study was conducted by Liamputtong (2020) on 15 children of the age group 6-13 years who were confined in their homes for a minimum time of one month due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Those children were asked to draw their feelings and it was observed that more than 85 percent of the participants developed a great fear of the virus along with feelings of loneliness, stress and depression which had a major impact on their mental health.
In various studies, using the survey method, the parents of the 45 children; proven underlying five major changes in the children. The first change that was noticed among the children was an increased level of anxiety. Parents noticed restlessness, higher irritability and fear of losing loved ones. Second factor of change observed was disrupted sleep patterns due to increased addiction of online games, reduced diet and negligible physical activity.Third change noticed was increased temper and tantrums along with frequent behavioral changes like yelling, screaming and crying. The fourth change in the lives of children was due to minimal physical activity which led to creative block and distorted metabolism. Since most of their time was spent indoors, they experienced little or no motivation. The last major change observed was an increased screen time due to education and other recreational dependencies, since the mode of teaching and entertainment both are online now Similar study that was conducted in Italy given by Valeria Bacaro, Marco Chia Budino (2021) showed how home confinement and social distancing could negatively impact sleep habits and prevail sleep disorders in children which may be also linked with altered emotional processes.