Long lockdown becoming a condition we can suffer from?

Isolated and depressed millennial teen with long hair watching the empty streets from his balcony in

Young men's projects and plans have been constantly revised and thwarted by the pandemic - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

I entered half-term with excruciating pain in my right shoulder.

Only a discussion with other colleagues in our online 'teacher chatroom' raised my awareness to the fact that we are suffering from ailments the teaching profession does not normally bear.

The guilty party: my computer mouse, has now been dismissed and replaced by a more ergonomically featured cousin.

Hours on end at the computer affects everyone’s eyesight, our elbows, hips, neck... Anything that has a joint not used to be still, suddenly makes us realise how challenging a sedentary job role can be.

Indeed, 64 studies have recently reported on this issue since March 2020, such is the concern, quotes the British Medical Journal (BMJ). In 'normal times' we were all educated to the fact that physical and mental benefits arise from increased physical activity, however, our current sedentary behaviour has again become a matter for public health concern. 

Hence, the advice is that new strategies drafted by Public Health England should encompass implementations of interventions promoting safe physical activity and ideas to reduce sedentary behaviours, should other lockdowns occur. 

Meanwhile, I was fortunate to have a fruitful conversation with a couple of my Year 13 students about this 'long lockdown' idea, and their plea is not as evident on the pain level effects of increased immobility, such is their youth, of course. 

Most Read

Pain was, however, mentioned at a more emotional and mental level, they drew my attention to the 'failed promises' syndrome our futures now suffer from.

What I understood from their kind sharing with me, was that their young minds felt that they did not know where the starting block was anymore.

Emerging from childhood on the big stage of adulthood, these young men had their projects and plans constantly revised and thwarted.

I found myself lucky that I could remember what being an adult was like, before a coronavirus impeached our society.

All the milestones associated with this late teenage cohort - exams, balls, graduation ceremonies - are cancelled. 

One could think that a cancelled exam is a blessing – is it? What if you have worked really hard for it and want to be able to bear the badge of honour gained by your elders, or worse, younger relations?

This tranche of age in our society is well known for its risk penchant; one of the perverse effects of our 'lockdown' is that they are currently 'locked in'.

What a dream for their concerned parents! Is it though? I would say that where there is a will, there is a way...

With the world at their fingertips, these youngsters also happen to know their way around this wide web far more than their parents, on average, do. 

Consequently, just here is an incredible danger, one that a father-to-son chat won’t cover indeed, as the father has no idea of the reality the son faces. 

No idea what happens once their late-teen enters in either websites, platforms or downloads games or apps. 

Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner for England, said: “It is widely accepted that lockdown and school closures have had a detrimental effect on the mental health of many children.

"Since the NHS study in July 2020 estimating one in six children in England have a probable mental health condition, we have had another long lockdown. 

“Emergency mental health presentations of young people during the Covid‐19 lockdown (1.0)” by Dennis Ougrin, published by the Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health (ACAMH), listed a whole range of issues linked to isolation and having the web for companionship.

Unfortunately, listed as a cascade that stems from an urge to self-harm, the ailments listed draw our attention to the fact that both suicide and self‐harm in young people have been rising in the UK, and that social media has been playing a prominent role in the way young people spread information about self‐harm. 

How do we, parents, guardians, educators, deal with this? 

We need to do what we know best. Distract young people from isolated journeys on platforms where dangers are unknown to us, create spaces within our homes, classes, where this generation will have to open up in a different way, the rediscovered face-to-face way. 

It won’t come from them... when was the last time you played Monopoly as a family?

LINX, a well-established charity in the Bay, offers services to local secondary schools, staff and students alike, and although its foundation and core are Christian, they offer services independently from the aspect of faith and beliefs.

On the topic of how young people manage their online activities, Tim Funnell, their project manager, shared that more than ever our young people need help with setting themselves healthy boundaries in terms of screen time - taking regular breaks and no screen time for at least half hour before bed.

Himself the father of teenagers, Tim explains how, at home, phones are not kept in bedrooms, but in the lounge overnight.

“They need parents to set these kinds of boundaries even if it won’t be popular”, he says.

Do you know passwords for phones/tablets and have the screen restrictions set at appropriate levels?

This means browsing history can’t easily be wiped and sporadic accountability checks can be made. 

Does it sound like policing? Imagine yourself at teenage with the kind of access to unrestricted information our youngsters now have; would your own parents/guardians have stepped in?

No researcher, children’s commissioner or other professional will do what parents and guardians can do: protect them, love them unconditionally and hold them while they realise the promises you make are trustworthy.

In my next column, I will address information sharing and cyberbullying.

Valerie Bailey

Valerie Bailey - Credit: Valerie Bailey