This report summarises the evidence base around COVID-19 mitigation measures for children and young people in Scotland. It focuses on children and young people and their parents’ understanding of these restrictions and their attitudes to COVID-19 measures, compliance and enforcement. It also examines the evidence on the impacts of mitigation measures on children and young people.
This report is an updated version of a working paper published by the Scottish Government in January 2021, and includes information previously presented in the working paper, as well as more recent evidence where available. Evidence is drawn from a representative survey of young people (the Young People in Scotland Survey 2021), as well as a number of non-representative surveys, YouGov weekly polls and qualitative research with young people and parents. Findings presented in this report tend to focus more on young people, reflecting the greater applicability of COVID-19 mitigation measures on this age group. Children are often not discussed since they were exempt from many measures.
In terms of understanding of restrictions, findings showed that the majority of young people were clear about the rules, particularly around face coverings. In the Young People in Scotland Survey 2021, carried out between February and early April 2021, almost all secondary pupils understood both when, where and why they were expected to wear face coverings. In the Lockdown Lowdown 2 survey of young people aged 11 to 25, conducted between September and early November 2020, most of the respondents were clear about the rules and were confident in accessing information on COVID-19 restrictions.
However, research with parents found low levels of understanding of rules around meeting others, particularly following the easing in May 2021. In qualitative research both young people and parents stated that it was difficult to keep up to date with changing regulations and called for clearer and more accessible information and communications.
In terms of compliance, the TeenCovidLife 2 survey carried out between August and October 2020 found most young people reported adhering to mitigation measures. Qualitative research found that most children and young people followed the rules, but often found it difficult to adhere to physical distancing and limits around meeting others when peers did not.
In terms of attitudes to COVID-19 mitigation measures, qualitative research showed that the majority of young people and parents were comfortable with them, and recognised them as an appropriate balance of freedoms and restrictions, although some young people felt rules around meeting others were restrictive. Most young people required to wear face coverings in schools were happy to do so, although some found them uncomfortable when worn all day in class. YouGov polling from March 2021 showed that most parents of secondary school children were comfortable with the use of face coverings and maintaining 2 metre physical distance at school, while around a quarter to one third were not comfortable with these measures. In April 2021, most parents had authorised or will authorise their children to use lateral flow tests in school, although slightly more than a quarter had not authorised it or were still undecided.
In terms of impacts of COVID-19 mitigation measures, the majority of young people in the Young People in Scotland survey 2021 did not feel anxious due to wearing face coverings and disagreed that others made them feel uncomfortable for wearing one. However, similar percentages agreed and disagreed that face coverings made it harder to connect with others, and more agreed that it was difficult to understand teachers and follow lessons when teachers were wearing face coverings than disagreed. Just under half also agreed that the rules around meeting others were having a negative impact on their relationships with family and friends and on their mental health, while a quarter of respondents disagreed.
In the COVID-19 Early Years Resilience and Impact Survey (CEYRIS) Round 2, a survey of parents of children aged 2-7 carried out in November and December 2020, most parents/carers of small children disagreed that their child got upset when seeing others wearing a face covering, and half agreed that their child was happy to wear one. Finally, in YouGov polling from 11-12 May 2021 many parents were concerned about the longer term effect of the pandemic on their child and were seeing changes in the way their child played/behaved as a result of the pandemic.