Lockdown children spending over five hours in their bedroom each day

Demotivation, boredom and diminished confidence may be the legacy of keeping children cooped up, writes Joanne Savage

Friday, 2nd April 2021, 8:00 am
Spending too much time in bedrooms can have a negative impact on child mental health

Some may have had the luxury of outdoor play but of course for many others the reality will have been being stuck in cramped high-rise flats or terraced houses where a weekly trip to the park might be the only escape from de facto incarceration.

According to research conducted by name label and wall sticker manufacturer My Nametags, almost two thirds (62 percent) of parents in the country claim, unsurprisingly, that their children are spending more time in their bedroom than they did pre-Covid. On average, these children are spending a rather alarming additional five and a half hours in their rooms per day, the largest increase in time across the UK.

More than one in 10 or 13% of parents whose children are spending more time in their rooms say they are spending over six additional hours in there every day, suggesting that many children are expending almost the entire day in the same room - something which is clearly vastly unhealthy, and as the research suggests, is having a deleterious impact on their psychology, health and wellbeing.

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More than a third (38%) of parents in Northern Ireland whose children have been spending additional time in their rooms are concerned that their children have been negatively affected by this. Only one in ten said the impact has been positive. This reflects the feelings of parents across the nation, with nearly half (44%) of UK parents expressing concern about the additional time their children are spending in their bedrooms.

Decreased motivation is the most common by-product of spending more time confined to their rooms, according to parents in Northern Ireland, with more than half (63%) saying their children are finding it hard to accomplish tasks. However, parents referenced a wide range of negative side effects, demonstrating the true extent of the impact lockdown is having on children’s wellbeing. These include being more frustrated (50%), having decreased social skills (38%), and being bored more often (38%). Many parents also cited that their children have experienced loneliness, have a shorter temper, are more easily distracted, and have less confidence than they did pre-pandemic.

And these negative mental health outcomes could well leave a psychological imprint on young minds that may be difficult to address when lockdown restrictions are fully lifted - habits formed over the past year when group interaction has been so reduced, can be hard to disentangle. Undoubtedly children have missed friends, teachers, the freedoms of the classroom, play dates, birthday parties, trips to cinemas, libraries, bowling allies, indoor adventure attractions and impromptu visits to ice-cream parlours, McDonald’s and all the many places young ones delight in visiting, kept instead in bedrooms over loaded with toys and tech that are really no substitute for real world interaction with their cohorts.

The impact on children comes as no surprise, given that they are now using their bedrooms for all aspects of their lives. The study found that children are regularly using their rooms for schoolwork (50%), socialising (50%), and even eating meals (38%).

Commenting on the findings, parenting expert Bea Marshall says: “It is evident from this research, and other research that has been published over the last year, that the impact of the disruption to our children’s lives due to Covid-19 has been significant. Lockdowns and other restrictions have meant that whole families have had to completely rethink life together and that has meant a dramatic increase in time spent together in one place, largely indoors.

“Our children have been under significant pressure to adapt quickly to a new paradigm. During times of stress, bedrooms can be places of refuge, peace and comfort so it is natural that children would seek out their private space to avoid sibling conflict, overstimulation and to recharge their energy. For this reason, the increased time spent in their bedrooms should not automatically be a cause for concern for parents.

“The impact of Covid-19 on our children’s mental health is significant and is showing up in their behaviour and engagement. As we move towards fewer restrictions our children will have the opportunity to restore balance as they spend time with friends again, go back to their classrooms, and hopefully longer days and warmer weather will lead to more time outdoors.”

Lars B Andersen, managing director at My Nametags, added: “Whilst there is light at the end of the tunnel, current restrictions are continuing to limit our day-to-day lives, so we were interested to see how the additional time spent indoors is affecting our customers and their families.

“From being bored more often, through to having a shorter temper and losing confidence, it’s clear from the findings that the current lockdown measures are taking their toll on the younger generation. Whilst we don’t have much control over the amount of time children are spending at home at the moment, we do have control over the environment, and simple changes can make a big difference in ensuring children’s bedrooms are a positive space for them to spend time in.”

There are various ways parents can help shape a child’s bedroom environment in order to promote wellbeing and psychological equilibrium, such as by creating a dedicated workspace to separate homework, sleep and play so that they do not begin to blur into one confusing melee of sums, YouTube sessions and eating spaghetti hoops on top of the duvet. Ideally, a workspace should be outside of the bedroom as this will help augment separate routines between work and play. Allow plenty of natura light into the room as much as possible since this is a natural mood booster and deploy storage solutions that help keep children’s bedrooms from descending into a mess of clothes, toys and clutter. A tidy, well organised room is more likely to produce a tidy, calmer and more ordered mind.

Updating old furniture with a lick of colourful paint is an easy way to transform tired looking bedrooms and can be done cheaply and easily.

It is also important to let fresh air into the room regularly. The amount of clean air in a room can make a big difference to our mental and physical health, so try and ensure that the windows in children’s bedrooms are opened several times a day.

Lighting too can have a profound affect on mood, psychology and emotion and dimmer switches are one easy way to ensure children’s bedrooms remain light and bright during the day and calm and relaxing around bedtime.

By setting clear boundaries around the functions that bedrooms are used for, by for example encouraging children to eat meals away from the bedroom and trying to organise a separate space for study or even play, will hammer home the message that the bedroom is the place to wind down and head off to dreamland in comfort.

A weekly plan to ensure children are regularly spending time outside of the home as a family - such as a walk in the woods or a jaunt around the local park where kids can enjoy swings, climbing frames and maybe feeding the local ducks, is another great way to entice children out of boxed-in boredom while getting fresh air into their lungs and an attendant upswing in mood associated with outdoor play.