Restricted Childhood, Interrupted Youth. Research observations on participation in education and leisure during the COVID-19 pandemic in the Nordic countries

Alix Helfer, Jakob Trane Ibsen, Viola Särkiluoto and Sinikka Aapola-Kari

In this study, we conduct a research overview and report on the rights of Nordic children and youth in the spheres of education and leisure during the COVID‑19 pandemic. We follow up on our first report, ‘Children and Young People’s Participation During the Corona Pandemic’ report (Helfer et al., 2023). In the first report, we explained how the COVID-19 pandemic was handled in the Nordic countries and related initiatives to safeguard the rights of children and young people. In all countries, there has been a great concern about the impact of the pandemic and how the restrictions have affected children and youth, particularly vulnerable groups.

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For this report, we have charted research on the consequences of the pandemic on children and young people’s situation within the spheres of education and leisure, particularly from the viewpoint of participation. The focus has been on research conducted during the years of the pandemic 2020–2022 in Sweden, Denmark, Finland, and Norway, including related studies in Iceland, Greenland, and the Faroe Islands. We have extensively searched publications and filtered the most relevant studies for closer inspection. We bring forward research perspectives on children and young people’s varied experiences during the pandemic, their learning results, and their possibilities for meaningful leisure activities. Furthermore, we look at to what extent children and young people have been informed about and included in decisions that affect their lives.

Table of Contents

Abstract 5
Sammandrag 8
Introduction 11
Part 1: Education 20
1.1. Limits on access and absences 21
1.2. Distance learning 23
1.3. Involvement in planning and implementation
– Participation in education 37
Part 2: Leisure 41
2.1. Sports and hobbies 41
2.2. Restricted youth and closed relationships 50
2.3. Private spaces:
Differential impacts in the everyday 55
2.4. Youth services under restrictions 58
Conclusion 60
3.1. Recap:
What has been studied during the pandemic? 60
3.2. Significance of children and young people’s
participation and influence 66
3.3. Unpredictable futures:
What are the gaps in knowledge? 72
Acknowledgements 76
References 77