Children and Media Worldwide in a Time of a Pandemic

by Maya Götz (Volume editor) Dafna Lemish (Volume editor)
©2022 Textbook VI, 244 Pages
Series: Mediated Youth, Volume 34


This edited volume focuses on the lived experiences of children during the first wave of the COVID-19 outbreak in the spring of 2020, their knowledge and emotional reactions, the adjustments they made in their everyday lives, and the strengths and skills they developed in response. A central theme of inquiry is the place media held in all of these aspects: the roles they played for children’s informational, emotional, and social needs, how these have changed under the pandemic circumstances, and the media competencies children developed in utilizing and controlling the media in their lives. The book is based on responses of 4,200 children ages 9-13 to an international survey administered in 42 countries as well as additional complementaries localized studies. Comparative dimensions are central to this unique collection of chapters, along geographical and cultural lines, as well as gender, age, class, health, and refugee status. With 40 authors from around the world, this book highlights the potential of media to assist children and their families in times of crisis as well as their potential drawbacks. Lessons learned for future crises are outlined in the concluding chapter of this book, which will be an asset to scholars of children’s wellbeing as well as professionals of media for children, educators, and parents.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • 1. Children, Families, Media, and COVID-19: Introduction to a Global Study (Maya Götz and Dafna Lemish)
  • 2. Living under Shutdown: Uncovering Children’s Lived Experiences and Concerns (Maya Götz, Caroline Mendel, Sun Sun Lim, and Macarena García-González)
  • 3. Spotlight on Some Countries from Different Continents (Ruchi Kher Jaggi, Aldana Duhalde, Giovanna Mascheroni, Geoff Lealand, Mamun S. Jahun, Dina L.G. Borzekowski, and Kirsten Y.C. Huang)
  • 4. The Roles of Media in the Crisis (Dafna Lemish and Thomas Enemark Lundtofte)
  • 5. Knowledge, Fear, and Children’s Media (Yuval Gozansky and Christina Ortner)
  • 6. Misinformation on COVID-19: A Case Study of Children’s Belief in Garlic as a Pandemic Savior in Turkey (Nilüfer Pembecioğlu, Uğur Gündüz, Aydoğdu Akın, and Maya Götz)
  • 7. Living in Different Parts of Multicultural Countries in the Crisis: Results from Switzerland and Israel (Anne-Linda Camerini, Catherine Blaya, Yuval Gozansky, and Hama Abu-Kishk)
  • 8. SubSaharan Children and Their Experiences during COVID-19: An Ecological Systems Approach (Dina L.G. Borzekowski, Christopher Ross Lane, Samantha Watters Kallander, Rebecca Gordon, Mamun S. Jahun, Moses Ansumana Tholley, and Mussa L. Chale)
  • 9. Income Inequality and the Pandemic: The Case of the U.S. (Jennifer A. Kotler, Mindy K. Brooks, and Min J. Moon)
  • 10. Gender, COVID-19, and the Media: Girls’ and Boys’ Experiences during the Pandemic in the U.S. (Rebecca C. Hains and Kyra Hunting)
  • 11. Living in the Pandemic as a Refugee or Child in Syria (Yisra Alhaj Hussein, Yusra Amounah, Fadi Jaafar, and Maya Götz)
  • 12. Media Use among Children with Chronic Health Conditions during the Early Days of the Coronavirus Crisis (Nancy A. Jennings, Allison Gilman Caplovitz, and Meryl Alper)
  • 13. Being an Adolescent in the Pandemic: Young People from Germany and the U.S. (Maya Götz and Nancy A. Jennings)
  • 14. Children’s Media Management Strategies during COVID-19 (Dafna Lemish and Liselot Hudders)
  • 15. Conclusions: What to Keep in Mind for the Next Time (Dafna Lemish and Maya Götz
  • Appendix: The Questionnaire
  • List of Contributors
  • Index
  • Series index

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1. Children, Families, Media, and COVID-19

Introduction to a Global Study

Maya Götz and Dafna Lemish

When COVID-19 pandemic struck it caused a worldwide crisis that has lasted for over 20 months at the time of this writing. With many millions of people infected and over four million deaths to date, this is the most devastating global public health crisis in over 100 years. Many countries closed borders, schools and daycare centers; canceled events, imposed stay-at-home orders, required mask-wearing and social distancing. Everyday activities like going to school, engaging in leisure activities, and meeting friends have been canceled and/or restricted, sometimes with short notice. The everyday life of children changed significantly as schools were closed, and they reported that social distancing, isolation, and loneliness have caused emotional hardship and left them with the media as the only means to stay in contact with friends and extended family.

Families during the Lockdown

On the one hand, many parents found various positive aspects during the pandemic such as enjoying extra time spent together including different outdoor activities as a family, in compliance with lockdown regulations (e.g., Trültzsch-Wijnen & Trültzsch-Wijnen, 2020). On the other hand, the pandemic, its restrictions, and lockdown measures brought completely unexpected new challenges and a “disruptive exogenous shock to family life” (Huebener et al., 2020). Research on parents who worked from home during the pandemic and were in charge of homeschooling found that many were ←1 | 2→overwhelmed by all the duties they had to master. The key factor influencing family stress in Canadian families, for example, was to find the balance between childcare, homeschooling, and financial stability (Carroll et al., 2020). 60% of the parents in vulnerable populations in the U.S., for example, experienced job losses, 69% income decline, and 45% reported a rise in caregiving burden. As a result, many felt a decline in psychological well-being during the COVID-19 restriction period (Gassmann-Pines et al., 2020). Studies in different countries revealed that juggling work and supervising children along with finding a balance between work and family were associated with conflict and a higher level of stress in parents (Chung et al., 2020). In summary, among the major pandemic outcomes are increases in parents self-reported mental health problems and declines in children’s physical health (Patrick et al., 2020; Westrupp et al., 2020).

Variations in impacts of these challenges found that unmarried women and families with young children reported higher degrees of deterioration of their mental health (Patrick et al., 2020). Mothers experienced frustration, depression, and loneliness (Cox & Abrams, 2020; Cusinato et al., 2020; Gassmann-Pines et al., 2020), and those with children younger than 11 years and with lower-secondary education deteriorated most significantly (Huebener et al., 2020). Finally, pressure was even higher for parents and caregivers of children with special educational needs and neurodevelopmental disorders (Waite et al., 2020).

Fathers reported higher rates of family caretaking burdens compared with mothers, and more often agreed with the statement: “From time to time I wish I could ‘run awayʼ from the situation I am in” (Russell et al., 2020). Parents in need of financial assistance reported a higher degree of anxiety and depressive symptoms, which is often associated with potentially higher rate of child abuse (Brown et al., 2020).

In summary, parenting-related stress, anxiety, and exhaustion were related in differing degrees to motherhood, caring for higher number of children, especially younger children or a special needs child, being a single parent, psychological distress, low parental resilience, and limited perceived social connections (Marchetti et al., 2020). Parents were stressed (Adams et al., 2021) and, in the case of an Israeli study, dark humor was often one of the ways parents (mostly mothers) expressed their hardships of surviving quarantine while taking care of their children (Lemish & Elias, 2020).

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Everyday Routines of Children

The lockdown and regulation to work from home changed many families’ everyday rituals. For example, eating habits and mealtime routines changed and many people began to snack more and cook for themselves. Among children, screen time increased by 87% and time spent with physical activities decreased among mothers (by 74%), fathers (by 61%), and children (by 52%) (Carroll et al., 2020). A U.K. study revealed that children who experienced lack of structure and routine spent a large amounts of time online and alone in their rooms (Ofcom, 2020).

Half of the children in a study in 11 countries revealed that they reduced the number of regular meals or time sleeping because of their high media consumption, and a quarter of respondents indicated that these behaviors increased during lockdown periods (Lobe et al., 2021).

Worldwide, Spanish respondents reported spending less time in physical activity, reduced daily consumption of fruit and vegetable as well as increased time exposed to screens (López-Bueno et al., 2020). Similar results were found in a longitudinal study in Shanghai, China including two surveys in January and March 2020: median time of physical activity decreased drastically from 540 min/week (pre- pandemic) to 105 min/week (during the pandemic), while screen time increased on average to approximately 30 hours per week (Xiang et al., 2020). Reductions in time children and adolescents spent in physical activity during the pandemic were found in several countries (Reece et al., 2020). Spending time outdoors was associated with high emotional well-being whereas greater feelings of loneliness and high daily screen time were associated with low well-being (Stieger et al., 2020). Physical exercise in particular showed some protective effects for adolescents’ mental health with regard to depression and anxiety during this global public health emergency (Chekroud et al., 2018).

School and Learning

In many countries, schools closed and distance learning was introduced as a substitute. A study in 11 European countries revealed large variation in the range of internet access and online interaction. More than 75% of children in Italy, Norway, Portugal, and Romania reported having daily remote interaction with their teachers during the COVID-19 lockdown. In comparison, less than 34% of the pupils in Austria, Germany, and Slovenia had daily interaction with their teachers during the COVID-19 lockdown (Vuorikari et al., 2020). In most countries, children and adolescents spent much less time with ←3 | 4→school activities than they did within the framework of regular schooling. In the Czech Republic, for example, children spent 2–4 hours a day studying during the lockdown (Brom et al., 2020), in Germany 3.6 hours (Wößmann et al., 2020, p. 3), and primary and secondary school children in the U.K. on the average 5 hours per day (Andrew et al., 2020).

The pandemic also revealed issues in specific countries; for example, we learned from scholars that the education system in Spain is extremely vulnerable in terms of crises like the COVID-19 shutdown because of socioeconomic segregation, school dropouts and academic failure, a poor culture of networking, and a lack of digital competencies (Azorín, 2020). In Australia, mass school closures could affect around four million students; approximately 20% of young people living in financially disadvantaged or low socioeconomic status communities are at risk of long-term educational disengagement, digital exclusion, poor technology management, and increasing psychosocial challenges (Drane et al., 2020). A study in the Netherlands revealed that all students made little or no progress while learning from home and the learning loss was up to 60% greater among students from less-educated homes (Engzell et al., 2021).

The first and most basic hurdle for distance learning was access to the internet and dependable devices. In China, an evaluation of distance education during the spring 2020 lockdown found that only one of 10 students in some regions had the chance to study at all due to poor internet connections and/or a lack of basic study space such as a table or a quiet learning environment. For China, this means that about 22 million rural and 10 million urban students did not engage in any learning at all during the COVID-19 crisis (Li et al., 2020).

In South Korea, the great majority of students had good internet access and suitable devices. According to the Ministry of Education, 98.8% of students in South Korea were engaged in online school study during the period of school closures. However, 223,000 students were identified as lacking access and the Ministry of Education organized a loan scheme for disadvantaged households and financial support to cover additional internet connection bills.

In some countries like Chile a disparity between a good level of connectivity in many urban areas and poor connectivity in disadvantaged rural communities became apparent. The Chilean government developed new platforms and access was provided free of charge. Further, the government provided course material online as well as hard copies of the material and distributed them among the students (UNESCO: Santiago, 2020).

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In Iran, the government launched an ambitious national distance-learning project via a new national e-learning platform called SHAD. However, due to limited internet access, less than every 10th student living in a poorer province was able to participate in distance learning. In South Africa, where the cost of internet access is tremendously high, the government made sure that educational websites were “zero-rated” to ensure access by all students (ADEA, 2020).

In high-income countries, studies on large-scale device distribution also revealed mixed results for students’ learning outcomes. In the U.S., the so-called “one-to-one” initiative that preceded the pandemic by several decades, in which each student in a public school is provided with a laptop or tablet, has not lived up to expectations, not least of all because teachers lacked the training to integrate technology into their teaching. Furthermore, in a study conducted during the pandemic, 56% of families with internet connection reported that service was too slow, 59% of families who owned computers said it did not function well, and 22% had to share their devices with others (Katz & Rideout, 2021). So while digital access and availability of devices increased in recent years in the U.S., the inequality gap between various communities grew, with poor communities of color being the most disadvantaged. Reviewing studies and initiatives from around the world, McAleavy and his team conclude: “There is strong evidence that suggests that the large-scale distribution of technology currently taking place during the pandemic is not a guarantee of educational continuity and good outcomes” (McAleavy et al., 2020, p. 15).

The potential of radio was a missed chance for educational utilization as it remains the most commonly available technology across the globe. Reaching 75% of households globally and, especially 80 to 90% of households in Sub-Saharan Africa, radio is the most available and best technology (McAleavy et al., 2020). However, advancing this initiative would have required a well-founded pedagogical development of educational content, which in most regions was not available (Richmond, 2020).

The overall challenges for education systems were even higher for children with special needs and disabilities. McAleavy and his team called it “a global disaster, particularly in low-income countries (…), an enormous risk that progress towards more inclusive school provision worldwide will be stalled” (McAleavy et al., 2020, p. 7). Interestingly, some low-income countries like Somalia integrated the need of marginalized children, including those with disabilities, from the beginning of support needed for distance learning. They identified the most vulnerable learners as internally displaced people, girls, and children living with disabilities. They were treated preferentially ←5 | 6→with regard to the distribution of radios for educational purposes (Somalia Education Sector COVID-19 Response, 2020).

For most parents, online learning during the pandemic has been problematic and challenging; so judged parents in China, for example. They also had negative views of the value and benefits of online learning because they believed their children lacked skills in self-regulation, but also due to their own lack of time and professional knowledge in supporting children’s online learning among other things (Dong et al., 2020).

Parents and children in Austria reported dissatisfaction with distance learning during the pandemic because primary-school education still employed traditional worksheets and schools did not provide digital or blended learning (Trültzsch-Wijnen & Trültzsch-Wijnen, 2020).

A study in seven European countries found that many parents reported negative impacts of homeschooling on themselves and their children. The quality of homeschooling was judged to be poor and parents complained that the support received from the schools was insufficient. Parents in most countries felt left alone with responsibility for their children’s homeschooling. This in turn produced increased level of stress, worry, social isolation, and domestic conflict. As a result, researchers predict there will be long-term impacts and increasing inequalities (Thorell et al., 2021).

National differences in education and schooling during the pandemic, too, became apparent. In the U.K., for example, the more affluent families spent 30% more time assisting their children with schoolwork than disadvantaged families (Bayrakdar & Guveli, 2020). Children in the 20% highest-income of families in the U.K. spent 5.8 hours a day on educational activities, over 75 minutes more than their peers in the lowest 20% income of households (4.5 hours) (Andrew et al., 2020). Parents with lower educational qualifications feel less confident supporting their children’s homeschooling (Bol, 2020; Cullinane & Montacute, 2020). Another factor beside the social and economic status of the parents was children’s own motivation. A German study revealed that low-achievers, who are generally sometimes less motivated, tended to replace learning time with TV, computer games, etc. (Grewenig et al., 2020). In summary, remote learning posed serious challenges and difficulties for families around the world and highlighted the existing disparities and inequalities within and across societies.

Violence against Children (and Women)

Studies from around the world found that violence against women and children increased during the extended lockdown, as demonstrated by ←6 | 7→self-reported data trends from Bangladesh (Guglielmi et al., 2020), Jordan (Aolymat, 2021), or Indonesia (Halim et al., 2020); and descriptive statistics in Kenya (Pinchoff et al., 2021), China (Dai et al., 2021), or Arab countries (El-Nimr et al., 2021). This violence was often associated with the socioeconomic consequences of the pandemic on families.

Analyses of conversations on Twitter found increases in violence against children, abusive or hateful online content, and cyberbullying. Babvey et al. (2021), for example, found that after the COVID-19 outbreak violence-related subreddits were among the content areas that recorded the largest increase. In addition, the analysis of Twitter data revealed an increase in abusive content during the stay-at-home restrictions (Babvey et al., 2021). Fabbri and her team collected data on children aged 1–14 years and household members in Nigeria, Mongolia, and Suriname and combined it to cover the average violent disciplinary methods used at home. They concluded a 35–46% increase in violent discipline scores within a “high restrictions” scenario in Nigeria, Mongolia, and Suriname, and between a 4–6% increase in scores of violent discipline within “lower restrictions” scenario in these countries (Fabbri et al., 2021).

In summary, studies from different cities, states, and several countries around the world concluded that incidents of domestic violence increased in response to stay-at-home and lockdown orders (Piquero et al., 2021).

Mental Health

In the first shutdown in spring 2020, the elderly population was identified as the most vulnerable group and less attention was given to the emotional and psychological consequences of the pandemic for children and adolescents. A review of medical studies of children and/or adolescents found that COVID-19 produces generally mild cases of illness in this age group (Alessandro et al., 2021; Mantovani et al., 2020). However, while symptoms appeared to be less severe for young people, many adolescents, for example, in Italy, still experienced anxiety, fears, and uncertainties on as to the Self-Rating Anxiety Scale and the Italian Emotion Awareness Questionnaire showed (Smirni et al., 2020).

A comparison of data from March to June 2020 revealed that parents reported a decline in the physical health of their children (Stephen et al., 2020). However, most studies of youth during these first stages of the pandemic found a higher risk of depression and anxiety especially among girls and older adolescents (Zhou et al., 2020). In addition, children and adolescents without a companion on workdays were more likely to be depressed ←7 | 8→and anxious during the COVID-19 pandemic (Chen et al., 2020). Girls were found to have more risk factors for depressive and anxiety symptoms, and the higher the grade in high school, the greater the prevalence of depressive and anxiety symptoms (Zhou et al., 2020). Being diagnosed with ADHD or ASD was a unique predictor of increased child anxiety and depressive symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic (Westrupp et al., 2020). Only very few studies concluded that the youth are “remarkably healthy” and emotionally balanced with an excellent ability to manage situations of insecurity (Buzzi et al., 2020).

A review of 51 studies on children and adolescents’ mental health effects caused by the pandemic identified high rates of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic symptoms (de Miranda et al., 2020). For example, an insightful Chinese study revealed that around 22% of children and adolescents suffered from depressive symptoms. The significant factors associated with increased levels of anxiety included among others being female, residing in urban regions, and having an emotion-focused coping style. Nine factors associated with increased levels of depression included, smartphone and/or internet addiction, and residing in the Hubei province. Two additional factors associated with decreased levels of depressive symptoms comprised the number of hours spent on the internet per day before the epidemic and the tendency to apply a problem-focused coping style (Duan et al., 2020; Rideout et al., 2021; Tang et al., 2020). A study in the U.S. found that 38% of the teens and young people studied reported suffering from moderate to severe depression (65% among LBGTQ+ youth) and had encountered a significant increase in hate speech online. They used social media to keep them connected and informed, including mental health resources. Overall, depressed young people are much heavier consumers of social media and express a strong dependency on it for managing their depression (Rideout et al., 2021).

A review of 83 articles between 1946 and 2020 found that costs of psychological follow-up treatment might be even higher as loneliness increases the risk of depression and anxiety between 0.25 and 9 years later. Thus, children and adolescents are probably more likely to experience high rates of depression and most likely anxiety during and after the enforced isolation ends (Loades et al., 2020).


VI, 244
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2022 (March)
COVID-19 media information context family school age-appropriate gender global region fear Maya Götz Dafna Lemish Children and Media Worldwide in a Time of a Pandemic
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2022. VI, 244 pp., 11 b/w ill., 10 tables.

Biographical notes

Maya Götz (Volume editor) Dafna Lemish (Volume editor)

Maya Götz (Ph.D.) is the Director of IZI and PRIX JEUNESSE International and a prolific scholar with a strong international record of bridging academia with the industry. She is the recipient of the inaugural Engaged Scholarship Award of the Division of Children, Adolescent and Media of the International Communication Association. Dafna Lemish (Ph.D.) is a Distinguished Professor and Associate Dean at the School of Communication and Information, Rutgers University, United States. She is a prolific scholar, founding editor of the Journal of Children and Media, and a Fellow of the International Communication Association.


Title: Children and Media Worldwide in a Time of a Pandemic