Here you can read some extracts from our research: from interviews with 27 children respondents aged 9-16 from Kyiv, Lviv, Odesa and Kharkiv, and from a national telephone survey of children aged 9-16 throughout Ukraine (cities with 50+ thousands of inhabitants).
There were the questions about self-assessment of the pandemic's impact on life, quarantine rules in the family, learning practices, communication with friends and parents, leisure, staying at home and away from home. The full version of the research is in the analytical report (link).
On impact of the pandemic on children’s lives
The vast majority of the interviewed children (80.5%) believe that the pandemic has affected their lives. Of these, 53.4% consider this effect moderate, and 27.1% — noticeable. One in five respondents (19.3%) believes that the pandemic has not affected their life at all or its impact is very insignificant.
“I don’t even know if this pandemic is for better or worse. My appearance has changed because I decided to change a lot about myself. I would say that the pandemic had a good impact on me, I began to work on myself more, I learned to be with myself and not be afraid of loneliness. I learned that I can handle things on my own. That’s it”
(Oksana, 15, Kharkiv)
Every tenth child describes their emotional state during the lockdown as depressed, every seventh speaks of being elevated; 74% of respondents assess their emotional state as neutral. We can assume that this neutrality may be partly a summary assessment of the negative and positive attitudes children may have experienced during different phases of isolation.
We have asked the children respondents:
- Which question would you like to ask the children of Ukraine, who also had the quarantine experience?
And received such answers:
- Did you live or did you exist during the pandemic?
- Did you miss face-to-face communication with people?
- How did you manage to do everything on time?
- What did you do not to go nuts?
At our request to provide associations to the words “coronavirus,” “pandemic” and “lockdown” children shared their ideas that can be categorized as follows:
- emotions: “nightmare,” “torture,” “hell,” “fear,”
- disease: “virus,” “doctors,” “vaccination,” “pulse oximeter,” “a green bubble with suckers” (younger kids), “test” (to detect coronavirus), “death”;
- spatial and behavioral: “stay home,” “no need to go to school,” “a mask,” “sanitizer,” “social distancing,” “prohibitions,” “isolation,” “lack of free time,” “too much free time,” “no friends”;
- online: “distance learning,” “video-conferencing,” “Zoom,” “laptop,” “phone”;
- service-related: “TV news,” “delivery,” “post”;
- creative: “zombie apocalypse,” “staying in a cave.”
Families that were particularly serious about the restrictions had their own rituals and rules:
“All purchased items were kept for three days on the street in front of our house; then we opened the outer packaging in disposable gloves, which we left outside. All fruits and vegetables were washed with soap, and we also bought a lot of essentials — pasta, canned food, of course, toilet paper, and cereal. We took it very seriously”
(Kateryna, 13, Kyiv)
They also remembered about the need for social distancing:
“We were told to wear a mask and keep away from places with a lot of people, to keep the distance. But I’ve been living in a cave my whole life. I was created for isolation! And you can’t go shopping”
(Ostap, 12, Lviv)
Education during quarantine
The use of online learning tools provided an opportunity to develop the skills of computer and cloud services usage: “I have been an advanced user before. But I learned to type fast — while the teacher asked questions, I quickly googled the answer and read it. I tried to type everything I could on a laptop to improve my skills, besides, it saved time” (Kateryna, 13, Kyiv).
But there were also difficulties, especially with the combination of digital and analog methods of performing tasks with a pen and a notebook:
“It was inconvenient that the task had to be dropped in Google Classroom — it took a lot of time: first do the task, then take a picture, upload it to Google Drive, and then from Google Drive to Google Classroom. And when they tell you ‘You have two minutes to do it,’ and you say ‘I can’t make it in time,’ and they reply ‘You have to upload it now.’ It was very inconvenient”
(Alina, 15, Odesa)
Many students found it difficult that at online classes teachers only explained the material and tested knowledge and gave no opportunity to ask questions, clarify, communicate:
“I never had problems with math before the lockdown, I was fine, and then it got worse during the lockdown. The material was poorly explained or I did not understand it. Then I started having difficulties with Ukrainian”
(Nikita, 12, Odesa)
(40 %) Slept longer / got up right before the lesson starts;
(37.1 %) Had more time for extra classes and hobbies;
(35.3 %) Lacked explanation from teachers;
(18.6 %) Nothing distracted me from studying;
(20 %) Improved cooperation with classmates;
(21.6 %) More time for a favourite subject.
Other types of experiences that they enjoyed doing: enjoyed doing tests online / using new apps (30.7 %), it was easier to cheat (27.3 %), too much homework (26 %), easier to deal with uninteresting subjects (23.3 %), communication with people you don’t like could be limited (21.9 %), 2.1 % of children mentioned their own option, another 1.9 % did not respond to the question.
“Our lessons started at 8.25 a.m. ― around this time I woke up. At first I tried to get up earlier, got dressed, sat down, but then I generally woke up five minutes before the lesson starts ”
(Alina, 15, Odesa)
This advantage of distance learning was emphasized by almost all the children we interviewed.
In this new mode of education, children deepened cooperation with their classmates. Many tasks were done together: during conferences or chats, children completed tasks, discussed their solutions, and shared correct responses with each other.
“Tasks were given either in Google Forms or online — we liked it, it was interactive. Our tech-savvy ‘programmers’ especially enjoyed it, because all of it was easy to hack”
(13 years old)
Some students emphasized that they appreciate real-life communication with their true friends, and concerning their classmates or acquaintances — online is enough for them.
However, even outgoing kids often found it difficult to adjust to communication online:
“During lockdowns, I went for a walk and realized how much more introverted I’ve become. I had no particular desire to socialize. And school, it gives you this communication, a little friendship”
(Yaroslava, 15, Kyiv)
According to the all-Ukrainian survey, every second child does not want to switch to distance learning completely. 27% agree to it as an additional way of learning, if necessary, 11.5% see it as a basic way of learning and 8.2% think that it can be an additional regular way of learning.
The new leisure
“I surfed the net a lot both before and after lockdown, like any teenager. But the difference is that before isolation I still walked more with friends, and with my parents — I simply went out. And during the lockdown, I couldn’t do this”
(Marta, 16, Odesa)
38.4% of the surveyed children always knew what to do at the lockdown, whereas the same number (38.3%) of kids did not always know how to keep themselves busy; 22.2% of the respondents often did not know what to do.
Some of the teenagers aged 15–16 use social media purely for entertainment or aesthetic reasons:
“I spend most of my time on Instagram, where I follow various bloggers to see their lives. Mostly I subscribe to accounts with different styles of clothing”
(Maryna, 15 years old, Kharkiv)
Others perceive them as a source of information that can be used for personal growth:
“TikTok is the network I use very often, it helps me to learn new things (embroidery lessons, growing plants, movies, TV series)”
(Yaroslava, 15, Kyiv)
The interviewed children aged 12–14 did not create much content of their own:
“I don’t make videos of my own, I don’t like showing off, I keep things to myself” (Ksenia, 13, Kyiv)
“In isolation, it was difficult for me to do it [dance] in my room, but I found a way out and created something new, so the results are good as I did not stop training”
(Vasylyna, 11, Lviv)
Reading still keeps its position in Top-3 hobbies modern children are engaged in when alone. And even if the sources change (most interviewed children mentioned reading comics and fan fiction online, and rarely paper books), this type of activity is still relevant.
9-11-year-olds typically spend time with friends playing outdoor games.
“Me and my friends often chatted at night, because we did not have time to do it during daytime, so I completely lost my sense of schedule. I slept between studies because of this night communication. It was difficult. They invited me for a walk, and my mother said: wait, we’re on lockdown, what do you mean by walking? And friends said, ‘we cannot do without our conversations, let’s at least talk at night, let’s play a game.’ I told them that I wanted to sleep, but I still talked to them, and I talk to some of them even now, we’ve become closer. Sure, offline is better, but isolation helped me to accept online communication — that I can say with confidence”
(Oksana, 15, Kharkiv)
Although children spent a lot of time online, both in order to learn and as a form of leisure, the majority of the surveyed kis at the all-Ukrainian stage of our research indicated playing outdoors (58.5%) as a way of interacting with friends.
In families with strong traditions of spending free time together before isolation (such as reading books at bedtime, playing board games, going to theatres or picnic, etc.), it continued.
“We became closer. We got to know each other better. Parents told me stories from their childhood. Nobody felt bored with anyone, on the contrary, we became friendlier”
(Maryna, 15, Kharkiv)
Mid- and late teens noticed that their families started acquiring new useful habits. For example, many children mentioned that they began to pay more attention to sports:
“My mum arranged training for us so that we could get out of the lockdowns slim and healthy”
(Nikita, 12, Odesa)
If to talk about living conditions, the children were generally comfortable to learn from home, because their room is comfortable, there is no need to dress, spend time on the road, etc:
“What I liked: I am a very homely person and I could be at home more”
(Ksenia, 13, Kyiv)
If there were two children in the family, they were separated for the time of study, for example, someone could study in the kitchen:
“Adults were distracting me when they came in to eat. I then turned off the camera, but the teachers scolded me for it. Well, how did it interfere? Was there a table? It was. Was there a chair? It was. Well, and it's normal ”
(Nikita, 12, Odesa)
Among those who have their own room:
- enough — 84,8 %;
- on average — 13,5 %;
- not enough — 1,7 %.
Among those who do not have their own room:
- enough — 71,4 %;
- on average — 19,9 %;
- not enough — 8,8 %.
Among those who share a room with a brother or sister:
- enough — 66,1 %;
- on average — 26,6 %;
- not enough — 7,3 %.
Middle-aged and older children, who were generally not restricted from walking and meeting friends in the city during the pandemic except for lockdowns, continued to be in "their" places and on "their" routes:
Map 6: 12 years, Kyiv
Map 5: 16 years, Kharkiv
36.2% of respondents were able to walk wherever they wanted in the city before the pandemic, and during the lockdown there were 24.5% of such. Fewer were allowed to go to the playground (18% and 12.3% before pandemics and during the lockdown, respectively). The rate for those who could go to the store unaccompanied did not change at all (as an evidence to the fact that no one canceled a housework on quarantine), and the vast majority could still go anywhere unaccompanied in the area.