Coronavirus is going to have a long-lasting impact on people of all age but adolescents could be the most vulnerable lot. According to the Population Foundation of India (PFI), around 243 million Indian adolescents are at greater risk today because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is because most of these young people are out of school and spending more time on social media and this could have a negative impact on their mental health.
“In this digital day and age, being stuck at home during lockdown also means increased and sometimes unfettered access to television and social media, which can negatively impact their mental health,” says public health expert and executive director of Population Foundation of India (PFI), Poonam Muttreja.
According to a recent rapid assessment study conducted by the NGO to assess the impact of COVID-19 on young people, nearly 46 per cent of adolescents who were social media users reported spending more time online during the lockdown. Moreover, 65 per cent of adolescents who were feeling depressed during this time said they were watching more TV during the lockdown.
“At 243 million, India has the largest adolescent population in the world who are greatly at risk today. The shutting down of schools has made the already difficult lives of adolescents more challenging, especially in rural India. While many schools have moved to online classrooms, internet accessibility is still a major problem in many parts of India,” Muttreja added.
Earlier, a report in the Lancet (Child and Adolescent Health) Journal highlighted that social deprivation and reduction in peer contact threaten to have long term consequences on the impressionable minds of our young population.
This comes days after a scholarship winning girl in Kerala died by suicide because of her inability to attend online classes in the wake of the lockdown. This is a grim reminder of the differential access to digital technology in the country.
“While digital literacy will undoubtedly be the new normal in the post-COVID-19 era, it is equally important to assess the holistic impact of the pandemic on adolescent health, development, and well-being.”