MUMBAI: While children have largely been spared severe Covid infection, the pandemic-induced lockdown changed their life in multiple ways, resulting in more screen time, lesser physical activity and higher irritability, found a city survey.
Conducted ahead of Children’s Day to gauge the emotional and nutritional impact of the pandemic on children, doctors from the three Fortis Hospitals in the city interviewed 7,670 parents. They found that half of them were worried about their children’s reduced attention span, over a third about their child’s weight gain and unhealthy snacking habits. Only parents of children in the 5 to 18 age group were interviewed.
Overall, 95% of the parents interviewed said the pandemic has impacted their child’s “physical, emotional and social growth”. A research paper in medical journal, JAMA Network, on October 1, underlined a correlation between children’s mental health and their physical activity and screen time. The study surveyed 1,000 school-aged children in the US and found that children who were engaged in more physical activity and less screen time had better mental health outcomes.
The Fortis Hospital survey found the balance between screen time, physical activity and mental health couldn’t be maintained by many. For instance, the ‘work from home’ culture during the pandemic resulted in parents being in close physical contact with children, but unable to pay attention to them. “Parents worked from home, but they were not accessible to their children. We came across cases where the children were locked away in a different room so that parents could work. This must have impacted young children’s emotional makeup,” said Dr Sameer Sadawarte.
Six out of 10 children had become agitated and irritated during lockdown periods. Over 60% of the parents felt their children had become “clingly” and demanded that parents spend time with them.
During the first wave in 2020, the lockdown was so stringent that children were not allowed to go to the playground or even the housing society’s garden to play. Not surprisingly then, 62% of the parents said that their children spent four to six hours every day in front of an electronic gadget. The survey found 57% of the parents said their children watched TV or played video games in their free time. Over one-third of the parents (39%) said their children had gained weight during the pandemic as they frequently snacked.
Pediatrician Jesal Sheth said, “Children show more resilience as compared to adults, but the fact that their growth process was disrupted for a long period by physical inactivity is a matter of concern. As life limps back to

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