“Clearly, there are children in a lot of stress out there. … I suspect we’re going to learn a lot about personal coping, family dynamics and online peer friendships, providing us with a sense of how children are dealing with this difficult situation.” – Rebecca Raby, Professor of Child and Youth Studies at Brock University
News from Brock University in Niagara, Ontario
Posted April 14th, 2020 on Niagara At :Large
Niagara, Ontario – It was a news report on the dramatic rise in calls to Kids Help Phone that moved Rebecca Raby to action.
As a researcher with a long history of working with children and youth, the Brock University Professor of Child and Youth Studies was concerned, and curious, about how young people are coping with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Raby and her research team of six graduate students have now launched their online study of children’s and young people’s experiences at home during the pandemic.
“Clearly, there are children in a lot of stress out there,” says Raby. “But I suspect we’re also going to hear stories about really cool, compelling things that kids have started to initiate at home with parents, siblings, on their own or online.”
Raby and her team are starting one-on-one online interviews this week with up to 30 children and youth from ages eight to 15.
The research team member is asking participants a number of open-ended questions, says Raby. Some example questions include:
* How are you feeling?
* What’s your favourite thing to do each day?
* What are you finding hardest about this situation?
* Have the rules of your household changed?
* How has the situation changed your extra-curricular activities and your job, if you have one?
The team will do another round of online interviews in two weeks, asking the same questions, and then they’ll repeat that every two weeks over the next few months. In between the major sessions will be “mini-interviews” to stay in touch with participants, says Raby.
“I think that this is an opportunity for some kids to have extra social contact,” she says.
Raby and her team sought to recruit children and youth from a wide diversity of backgrounds and age ranges. They’re still seeking participants from lower-income families.
“The experiences of children during the pandemic are going to vary so greatly depending on a number of factors, including if they have disabilities, are lower income, the size of their living space, whether they are travelling back and forth between parents,” she says. “All of those kinds of things can shape what their experiences of the pandemic will be.”
Raby says the pandemic has greatly accelerated the team’s research process, and that she’s been “really impressed” that Brock’s Research Ethics Board has been open to quickly reviewing research applications related to the pandemic.
As soon as patterns and themes start emerging from the interviews, Raby plans on sharing the findings with media so that the wider public is aware of children’s and young peoples’ experiences right away.
“I suspect we’re going to learn a lot about personal coping, family dynamics and online peer friendships,” says Raby, “providing us with a sense of how children are dealing with this difficult situation.”
Such knowledge might help families by offering ideas and coping strategies arising from the young people themselves, she says, and provide government and service organizations with ideas on how to better support children who are having a hard time.
Down the road, the team aims to publish their findings, partly as an historical record of this time and also “to inform thinking about children’s experiences in social isolation in general,” says Raby.
“There are children who are in social isolation quite regularly, even in normal life.”
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