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No Filter: A survey of children’s experiences of the Covid Pandemic

Nearly half of children surveyed by the Ombudsman for Children’s Office (OCO) say the Covid pandemic has significantly changed their lives. No Filter, a survey carried out by the OCO and Amárach Research in February 2022, sheds light for the first time on children’s own views and experiences of the two-year pandemic. Of the 1,389 children and young people (aged 9-17 years) surveyed in 23 primary and secondary schools across the country, 74% experienced feelings of loneliness, with 76% feeling levels of worry and 70% of anger throughout the pandemic. When it came to education, 83% of respondents felt the pandemic had some negative impact on their learning, while a worrying 14% of children said they got no help whatsoever with their online studies at home throughout. When it came to missing school due to Covid, 28% of children had missed more than two weeks since the beginning of this school year alone, while 29% were out for one to two weeks during the same period. 60% of children said their screen time, including TV, Netflix and Youtube, had increased during Covid, which didn’t include time spent online for schoolwork.

Children were also invited to make comments on their experiences of the pandemic. One girl aged between 12 and 14 from Galway told us she, ‘became more socially awkward, (I) don’t know how to talk to new people and thinking what to say’. While a teenager aged between 15 and 17 told us the pandemic had a ‘huge impact on (her) mental health and ability to communicate with people in real life’.
On the plus side, 54% of children and young people surveyed said they felt happy that restrictions had now lifted, with nearly 40% feeling hopeful. Some benefits of the pandemic were also expressed to us by respondents, with one primary school pupil from Wicklow telling us, ‘I think it was a chance for me to realise what I like doing and I really found myself’. A Cavan teenager said she had spent ‘much more time outdoors with family, and life was much more simple, which I enjoyed a lot’.

Commenting on the report, the Ombudsman for Children, Dr Niall Muldoon, said:
“So much has been said by adults throughout the pandemic on how the experience of the past two years has impacted children, but this survey is a chance to hear directly from children on how they feel their lives were affected.

“As we adjust to life without restrictions, we wanted to take a snapshot in time and record while still fresh in their minds, how children feel they coped with the extraordinary situation they found themselves in.

“The survey has thrown up some interesting and in some cases, worrying insights, particularly in relation to some of the children’s comments. With just under half of children
surveyed saying the pandemic had changed their lives ‘a lot’, it is clear that there is more work to be done to fully understand the true impact of the past two years on our children and young people.

‘Hearing directly from children and young people and ensuring their views are given due weight is an important part of my job as Ombudsman for Children, and I will work hard to ensure the powerful messages shared in this survey inform what we do and are heard by decision and policy makers alike.’



You can find our No Filter survey here.