Key concerns of the Young People of Ireland at this time are Education, Mental Health, and Inequality of Access to Technology.
The Youth organisation, Foróige, asked young people how the isolation measures are impacting on them and how they are coping. To gather this information, Foróige hosted a digital focus group with young people from all over the country which was chaired by two young people who are members of Foróige’s Board.
It emerged that the COVID-19 pandemic is adversely affecting the youth population of Ireland and Education surfaced as a key topic.
Young people are struggling to stay up to date with classwork and they find it very hard to get motivated to do school work at home. They reflected how challenging it is to find a routine whilst trying to learn new material on their own, without the support of peers or their teachers. Young people feel that the lack of clarity relating to exams is causing increased stress and anxiety.
Inequality of access to technology is also a big issue for young people. Not all young people have access to a laptop or smartphone, with many fearing they will fall further behind because of it. Those from rural areas in particular noted challenges with broadband making it very difficult for them to stay connected. Young people also noted the pressure that there is on space and technological equipment at home, with parents working and siblings needing time on the computer too.
Young people’s concerns ranged from their loved ones staying safe to the long term impact – what does the future look like when the pandemic is over?
Mental health and general wellbeing was also a significant topic. Worry and anxiety when the world as they know it has been turned on its head are the main emotions. Their concerns ranged from their loved ones staying safe to the long term impact – what does the future look like when the pandemic is over?
Concerning Covid-19 itself and the isolation measures, young people are finding it tough. They are frightened for their older relatives and they find all of the information overwhelming. While they are following the Government’s guidelines, they miss their friends and the social aspect of their lives.
Seán Campbell, CEO Foróige said:
“These are uncertain times for young people and it’s so important that we listen to them and provide safe platforms where they can connect with and support each other. It’s not unexpected, but still quite shocking, to hear the levels of anxiety and worry that young people are feeling in the current situation.
“It’s clear that they are scared for their families, their futures and their mental health but there is also much to feel positive about. They are using their time to learn new skills and support their families, whilst playing their part in the fight against Covid-19 by staying in.”
The digital focus group was made up of young people from Foróige’s Youth Sub Group, who are democratically elected from amongst their peers to represent the voices of young people. The group is by design representative from gender, geographical and diversity perspectives. They also represent young people from a variety of backgrounds, with an age range of 16 – 18.