white filler image

Life During Lockdown: Findings from the GUiNZ survey

In May 2020 Growing Up in New Zealand (GUiNZ) surveyed around 2,500 cohort children during the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 outbreak in Aotearoa New Zealand. This survey was one of the largest conducted worldwide to examine children’s health, wellbeing, and education experiences during the pandemic. The survey was completed online by GUiNZ cohort children aged 10 and 11, resulting in two reports which canvas health, mental wellbeing, family life, school satisfaction, device use and screen time, and connectedness. These reports compared the findings to previous findings when the same children were approximately eight years old.

Health and Wellbeing survey

Key findings:

  • Overall, 83% of children reported ‘very good’ to ‘excellent’ health during COVID-19 Alert Levels 2-3, and approximately 60% had no symptoms associated with depression or anxiety.
  • There was an increase in the number of children reporting symptoms related to depression, compared to when they were eight years of age.
  • Most children (88%) felt supported by their family in lockdown, and nearly 80% said they had a ‘good time’ with their family.
  • Māori and Pasifika children had significantly lower depression and anxiety scores, compared with European children. Researchers attribute this to greater family connection.
  • Around 40% of children displayed symptoms of depression and anxiety. These children were more likely to be:
    • girls;
    • children who were always or often worried about how much money their family had;
    • those who had had fewer positive experiences at Alert Level 4; and
    • those with existing wellbeing and developmental concerns.
    • Nearly half (45%) of children surveyed felt they did not have someone they could talk to regularly about their feelings in lockdown.
    • Children who were less connected to friends and family during Alert Level 4 were more likely to report poorer overall health status compared to children who felt more connected.

Education Survey

Key findings:

  • Two-thirds (64%) of children reported continuing to feel connected to their school or kura during the Level 3 and Level 2 periods.
  • Most children (84%) reported that people in their bubble were involved in their schoolwork several times a week or more.
  • Nearly three-quarters of children reported less school satisfaction at the time of the survey compared with school satisfaction reported at eight-years of age.
  • More than two-thirds (67%) of children used devices every day for school or homework, with the average time spent in front of screens on weekdays being nearly five hours.
  • Children living in areas with the least socioeconomic deprivation reported the highest screen time during the weekdays (five hours per day).
  • YouTube was the most popular app used (76% of children) and there was a high use of apps with 13+ restrictions even though children were aged 10 and 11.
  • Screen time increased markedly among children compared to when they were aged eight. Much of this increase may be attributed to most schoolwork moving to online delivery during the lockdown period. Increased screen time hours are consistent with figures observed in Australian children of a similar age, so may be typical of screen use at this life stage.

Future Considerations

The reports’ authors say the survey findings have implications for future lockdowns and the way in which virtual home learning is delivered.

Involvement in activities, such as baking, chores, and outdoor pursuits, whether school-related or otherwise, were found to be important predictors of school satisfaction, demonstrating the importance of this kind of learning, together with family connectedness, in enhancing children’s wellbeing. Overall, the research showed that education under lockdown is not a standardized experience, with lockdown learning exacerbating existing socio-economic and digital access divides.

The authors suggest strategies are needed to ensure equitable access to devices and online schooling options for those who are missing out. The authors recommend providing greater access to resources for caregivers and children to identify and manage symptoms of depression and anxiety in young people, delivering a campaign to educate parents/caregivers that children may worry about money, and include strategies to reassure children, as well as investigating additional support for families with children who have disabilities or learning challenges, to support mental wellbeing and education during any future COVID-19 restrictions.

white filler image
Print this page.