From Tween to Tween: How Are Kids Affected by COVID-19?

by Vrishab Kaushik, age 10

Over the past month, all people are talking about is the coronavirus (COVID-19). It has affected and impacted all of our lives.  It is different from other epidemics/diseases (like influenza) because it is novel and can be transmitted from person to person even when they display no visible symptoms. There is no vaccine or cure available for the disease yet.

At the time of writing this article, there are already more than 100,000 COVID-19 cases in the US alone and more than half a million cases globally. Life has changed like never before for most people living today and some people claim this is just the beginning. Adults are working from home, travel is heavily restricted, and businesses are being forced to close everywhere.

But how are kids affected by all the changes related to COVID-19? How are they coping with it?

School has been closed for the past three weeks, and is likely to be closed for at least another four weeks with some people even claiming that the entire school year may be over. We try to get outside for a little bit each day to take short walks and bike rides. Other than that, I have been mostly stuck indoors with my family. Teachers are slowly beginning online instruction. I do play board games and watch movies with my family to pass the time. I am learning a new language (Italian) on Duolingo, and I am doing a lot of assigned schoolwork. I am not scared or anxious about getting sick from COVID-19 itself because we are following all the guidelines like washing hands and social distancing. But, I am not happy and not having much fun either despite school being closed.

How are other kids’ lives affected by this pandemic? Do they feel the same way as me? Or are they excited about having an unexpected long vacation at home? To understand further, I decided to create a survey on Google Forms about kids perceptions on COVID-19. I distributed the survey between the dates of 3/21/20 – 3/25/20 to kids between the ages of 8 and 13 globally with the help of my parents and social media. I received a total of 90 responses – 37 from India, 44 from the US, and 9 from other countries. 79 of the 90 kids who participated in the survey knew something about COVID-19, but very few knew the exact number of cases in their country.

In my survey, I asked students to rate their feelings across happiness, boredom, fear, anxiety, excitement, how much fun they are having, depression, and stress. Kids were neutral on most subjects, but the majority (65% of kids from India and 70% of kids from the US) who took the survey indicated they were bored (Figure I). I would have thought that when school is out, kids would be happier but this was not the case. Many families (86% of families in India and 75% in the US) are practicing social distancing, and kids are washing their hands more (86% of kids from India and 93% from the US). Many people are also taking part in new activities – 46 kids indicated they were learning new life skills, 13 kids were learning new instruments, 14 kids were learning new languages, and the rest were playing inside their house or going outside on bikes/walks. But overall, kids seem to be doing the same things as me.

And how is this virus going to be contained in the future? Governments across different countries are doing different things to contain the virus. India is placing the entire country of about 1.37 billion people under lockdown (and so are France, Italy and Spain), while the US is leaving it to states to create curfews, close schools, and manage hospitals. Some other countries (Germany and South Korea) are not going under lockdown but they are testing more regularly than the US. Most governments have just passed stimulus bills to help sustain the economy. In my survey, I asked kids to rate whether their government was doing everything they could to help deal with COVID-19. Not surprisingly, the average rating in India was a 4 (out of 5), but the average rating in the US was only a 2.5. Over the next few weeks, we will find out which strategy is the most successful.

So we saw how kids are affected and how they are coping with the closures and curfews right now. But how will all of our lives be affected by this long-term? Will we have to social distance for a really long time? Will we have to repeat our grade if school is out for the rest of the year? Will  a vaccine eventually be developed? Or will the virus die in the summer? A lot of questions and very little answers. Only time will tell!