Children’s and young people’s right to participate during the COVID-19 pandemic

Chair: Alix Helfer (Finnish Youth Research Network), alix.helfer(at)nuorisotutkimus.fi

The working group meets on Thursday Nov 10th at 9–11 am (hybrid).

There has been a plethora of research on the pandemic and how that has affected different parts of society. One major concern has been on children and youth, especially concerning their right to participate. The COVID-19 restrictions have in many countries included that children and young people have not been able to go to school nor able to take part in leisure activities, nor to play in public spaces.

Children and young people who needed help from various services may have suffered from the closing down of many services. Youth work has in many areas been affected by closing of facilities, similarly as many public spaces including libraries, where children and young people normally may spend time.  

How significant has children’s and young people’s participation and influence been during the pandemic and their quality of life?  How have different groups of children and young people and their opportunities to be heard, seen and involved during the pandemic been affected? What does research reveal about effective methods and measures that have promoted participation and influence for children and young people during the COVID-19 pandemic? 

The working group will be organized in collaboration with the Finnish Youth Research Society and VIVE – The Danish Center for Social Science Research.

Presentations

Enrique Hernández-Diez (University of Extremadura): Limits of emergency powers in the face of participatory rights: covid-19 shows discriminatory treatment against youth civic participation

Katariina Waltzer & Jaana Viljaranta (University of Eastern Finland, School of education and psychology), Kristiina Lappalainen (University of Eastern Finland), Fiia Söderholm & Leena Holopainen (University of Eastern Finland, School of education and psychology): The subjective well-being and school engagement of general upper secondary students during the covid pandemic

Ines Matres (Univerisity of Helsinki): “Ha! suck on that corona ‘found something to do” (1) Capturing adolescent experiences during the pandemic in Finland

Alix Helfer & Joel Manner (Nuorisotutkimusverkosto): Finnish youth's experiences from leisure time changes during the COVID-19 crisis

Abstracts

Limits of emergency powers in the face of participatory rights: covid-19 shows discriminatory treatment against youth civic participation

Enrique Hernández-Diez (University of Extremadura)

The Western Law of Crises has been extensively studied by historians and jurists before the covid-19 pandemic. But each new crisis, by its very nature that is difficult to predict, strains the mechanisms of political communities to guarantee their survival. The emergency powers are those used by public authorities to displace ordinary legal norms for extraordinary ones. But these powers are subject to legal limits (existence of danger, temporality, adequacy and strict proportionality, for example) and control techniques (political, administrative and judicial). However, the practice of many southern European states (Spain, Portugal, Italy and France, i.e.) during covid-19 shows that these limits and controls have worked poorly when it comes to preserving youth and child rights. Furthermore, the European Union lacks efficient legal instruments in the face of crises such as the covid-19 pandemic, despite its significant material intervention. Some adultocracy tendencies and legal contradictions in the definition of these exceptional rules are evidenced with examples of Spanish crisis Law between 2020 and 2022 (i.e., some regional authorities have used the pandemic to impose administrative restrictions on youth sector that were not lifted after the end of the health emergency situations that motivated them, or the national authorities ignored the age factor in the analysis of the impact of legal lockdowns). The results of the analysis of national cases can serve to research the legal reaction of the public powers toward youth participation in other States in a more efficient systematic way, and to apply them in other current or future crisis situations. Finally, a greater legal integration of the youth policy of the States coordinated within the European Union or the Council of Europe could favor a better protection of youth participatory rights in future crises, by strengthening the mechanisms of political, technical-administrative and judicial control.

“Ha! suck on that corona ‘found something to do” (1) Capturing adolescent experiences during the pandemic in Finland

Ines Matres (Univerisity of Helsinki)

During the Spring 2020 lockdown in Finland, museums and archives initiated rapid-response collections to capture immediate experiences during this exceptional situation. This presentation is based on 75 diaries collected by museums and archives, originally created as assignments by adolescents during remote schooling. In the presentation I will borrow some expressions from the narrators to illustrate how the diaries can be understood as a form of direct participation in documenting the now. In close reading the materials I have used the concept of “ordinary everyday writings” established within the field of oral history to navigate tensions between the exceptional and the ordinary, between the personal and the collective, and between the contexts in which these diaries were created and collected.

Even if the pandemic is notable in the diaries, it does not dominate them and they can be considered an accurate portrait of contemporary adolescence also beyond this exceptional period. These diaries reveal the shared emotional resilience connected to hobbies, which as the title of this presentation, suggests a revolt against the pandemic spoiling their everyday lives. Some diaries contain news and comments about regulations, which reproduce from their perspective our contemporary communicative milieu. Finally, the embedding of schoolwork, references to their digital works, and their documenting practices hint at their valuable contribution to oral history, which is to document their time and age.

That the diaries were assignments, and thus belonged to their ordinary everyday experience, makes them highly participatory in methodological terms, which could influence future practices of contemporary collecting. That they will remain preserved in museums and archives can allow further research and other “readings” of the materials to further understand their experiences during and beyond this pandemic.
(1) “HAH revi siitä korona mä löysin jotain tekemistä” 23.3.2020 Veva, 9th class

The subjective well-being and school engagement of general upper secondary students during the covid pandemic

Katariina Waltzer & Jaana Viljaranta (University of Eastern Finland, School of education and psychology), Kristiina Lappalainen (University of Eastern Finland), Fiia Söderholm & Leena Holopainen (University of Eastern Finland, School of education and psychology)

Covid-19 pandemic caused dramatical changes in students’ schooling, and the transition to remote learning has shown to affect students’ well-being in many ways. In this paper we concentrate on the change in subjective well-being (SWB Diener 1984) and school engagement (Appleton et al., 2006) of general upper secondary school students during the pandemic. We have focused on two dimensions of SWB, social relations and means for self-fulfilment, as well as on two dimensions of school engagement, cognitive and affective engagement.

The data from approximately 200 students from six general upper secondary education schools in Eastern Finland was collected as part of a larger longitudinal study in years 2020 and 2022 as the students had their second and third year of the studies. Between these measure points the covid-19 pandemic had caused a transition to remote teaching where the students mainly studied alone at their homes.

The results showed that students’ well-being in terms of their social relations did not change during the pandemic, but their reports concerning means for self-fulfillment decreased. In addition, students’ school engagement in terms of affective and cognitive engagement did not show any changes during the pandemic. These results were similar for both boys and girls.

We find these preliminary results quite interesting as the level of affective and cognitive school engagement as well as school well-being in terms of social relations stayed at the pre pandemic level even though the students could not anymore study face-to-face or to meet each others at the school. It seems that the engagement and the social relations formed during the first 1,5 years of studying at the general upper secondary education lasted through the period of distance teaching. We also might suggest that the teachers have succeeded in supporting students’ schooling.

Finnish youth's experiences from leisure time changes during the COVID-19 crisis

Alix Helfer & Joel Manner (Nuorisotutkimusverkosto)

The corona pandemic has affected the free time and hobbies of young people in many ways. In this presentation, we will highlight recent results from the Youth Research Network's various data collections regarding children's and youth's free time and especially hobbies. In the light of five surveys, we examine how young people aged 12–24 have experienced the interruption of their free time and hobbies.

The Youth Research Network gathers information about experiences of young people every year for the Youth Barometer. Also, in the years 2020–2022, four survey round related to COVID-19 times and one survey on leisure in February-March 2022 have been carried out. The materials include questions about, among other things, the well-being of young people, free time, and experiences and views during the pandemic. The materials contain quantitative information and answers to open questions. The material collected in several stages offers opportunities for monitoring the phenomenon using statistical multivariate methods.

In the light of our data, young people's leisure time satisfaction has been at a lower level during than before the pandemic. Interruption of hobbies had been experienced during COVID-19 by three out of five young people, slightly less often among 15–19-year-olds than younger or older. The proportion of those who experienced the interruption of hobby activities as negative increased slightly between autumn 2020 and early summer 2021. Of the young people whose hobby was interrupted, three out of ten said that they experienced the interruption as very negative. Interruption of hobby activities due to the COVID-19 crisis was associated with lower leisure time satisfaction by about a quarter of a school grade. The respondent's experience of having too little or too much free time had a stronger connection to low leisure time satisfaction than the interruption of hobbies. Some also described that stopping their hobby had been a positive thing. However, many alternative forms of hobby arose during the Corona period, and many who stopped their hobby also started a new hobby.

When growing up, relationships and free time plays an important role. Especially for teenagers and young adults, the effects of the pandemic and their feeling of belonging - to a community or ociety as a whole - can have long lasting effects. It is important to follow whether young people get attached back to hobbies. In the future, attention should be focused on providing an affordable and equal free time opportunities.

Back to working groups