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Children and COVID-19 Research Library

UNICEF Innocenti's curated library of COVID-19 + Children research

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An examination of bedtime media and excessive screen time by Canadian preschoolers during the COVID-19 pandemic

C. Fitzpatrick; M. L. Almeida; E. Harvey (et al.)

Published: April 2022   Journal: BMC Pediatrics

Risky media use in terms of accumulating too much time in front of screens and usage before bedtime in early childhood is linked to developmental delays, reduced sleep quality, and unhealthy media use in later childhood and adulthood. For this reason, this study examines patterns of media use in pre-school children and the extent to which child and family characteristics contribute to media use during the COVID-19 pandemic. A cross-sectional study of digital media use by Canadian preschool-aged children (mean age = 3.45, N = 316) was conducted at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic between April and August of 2020. Parents completed a questionnaire and 24-h recall diary in the context of an ongoing study of child digital media.

"It's hard to keep a distance when you're with someone you really care about"—A qualitative study of adolescents' pandemic-related health literacy and how Covid-19 affects their lives

Kirsti Riiser; Kåre Rønn Richardsen; Kristin Haraldstad (et al.)

Published: April 2022   Journal: Plos One

The aim of this study was to explore how adolescents accessed, understood, appraised, and applied information on pandemic preventive measures, how their lives were impacted by long-lasting regulations and how they described their quality of life. A qualitative design with focus group interviews was used to elaborate on the quantitative survey results obtained and analyzed in a previous survey study from the first phase of the Covid-19 pandemic. Five focus groups with seventeen adolescents were conducted digitally during the second pandemic phase in November and December 2020. The interview data were analyzed with directed content analysis.

The impact of COVID-19 experiences on adolescent internalizing problems and substance use among a predominantly Latinx sample

Elisa M. Trucco; Nilofar Fallah-Sohy; Sarah A. Hartmann (et al.)

Published: March 2022   Journal: Journal of Youth and Adolescence volume
Given the salience of socialization factors on adolescence and their role in vulnerability to disasters and trauma, this study examined whether COVID-19-associated fears and impacted quality of life mediated associations between pandemic-focused family conversations and media exposure and subsequent youth mental health. A primarily Latinx sample of adolescents (N = 167; Mage = 16.2 years, 44.9% female) participated in a longitudinal (summer 2020-winter 2020) COVID-19 study. COVID-19 media exposure predicted engagement in relevant safety behaviors, which negatively impacted quality of life, which in turn predicted increased internalizing problems. COVID-19 family conversations predicted social distancing fears, which negatively impacted quality of life, which then in turn also predicted increased internalizing problems. Targeting key socialization factors may minimize negative consequences following major community trauma among adolescents.
Parental mediation of COVID-19 news and children’s emotion regulation during lockdown

Mara Morelli; Federica Graziano; Antonio Chirumbolo (et al.)

Published: February 2022   Journal: Journal of Child and Family Studies
The COVID-19 outbreak resulted in a large amount of emotionally charged messaging that is believed to have a tremendous psychological impact, particularly on children and early adolescents. The present study examined the relationships between children’s exposure to COVID-19 news, children’s emotional responses to the news, parental styles of mediating COVID-19 news, and children’s emotional functioning during the COVID-19 lockdown in Italy in April 2020. An online survey was completed by 277 parents (Mage = 43.36; SDage = 4.76; mothers = 89.5%) with children aged 6 to 13 years.
Inconclusive findings in studies of the link between media coverage of mass trauma and depression in children
Published: February 2022   Journal: Current Psychiatry Reports

This paper reports a review of the empirical research examining the association between mass trauma media contact and depression in children, the factors that may influence the association, and the difficulties encountered in the study of media effects on depression. All of the included studies assessed general population samples. Pre-COVID-19 research focused primarily on television coverage alone or on multiple media forms including television, while COVID-19 media studies examined various media forms including social media. Most studies used cross-sectional design and non-probability sampling. The review revealed inconclusive findings across studies.

Sleep and media use among children with neurodevelopmental disorders during the COVID-19 pandemic

Tanaporn Jasmine Wilaisakditipakorn; Carolyn E. Ievers-Landis; Sindhoosha Malay (et al.)

Published: February 2022   Journal: Children's Health Care
Children with neurodevelopmental disorders commonly have sleep problems and higher screen time compared with their typically developing peers. Relationships of their media use to sleep are unknown during the COVID-19 pandemic. Seventy-five caregivers/parents of children ages 5–12 years with neurodevelopmental disorders completed surveys during the pandemic, reporting average child media use of 3.35 hours/day (SD = 0.36) and sleep duration of 9.22 hours (SD = 1.27). Media use duration was not significantly related to any sleep outcomes in the total sample. Unexpectedly, in subgroup analyses with COVID-19 exposure/distress variables, greater media use duration significantly related to less sleep-related impairment (p = .012) and disturbance (p = .0004). Clinical implications are that media use/sleep plans should be individually tailored for these at-risk children.
Super-spreaders or victims of circumstance? Childhood in Canadian media reporting of the COVID-19 pandemic: a critical content analysis

Sarah Ciotti; Shannon A. Moore; Maureen Connolly (et al.)

Published: January 2022   Journal: Healthcare
This qualitative research study, a critical content analysis, explores Canadian media reporting of childhood in Canada during the COVID-19 global pandemic. Popular media plays an important role in representing and perpetuating the dominant social discourse in highly literate societies. In Canadian media, the effects of the pandemic on children and adolescents’ health and wellbeing are overshadowed by discussions of the potential risk they pose to adults. The results of this empirical research highlight how young people in Canada have been uniquely impacted by the COVID-19 global pandemic. Two dominant narratives emerged from the data: children were presented “as a risk” to vulnerable persons and older adults and “at risk” of adverse health outcomes from contracting COVID-19 and from pandemic lockdown restrictions. This reflects how childhood was constructed in Canadian society during the pandemic, particularly how children’s experiences are described in relation to adults. Throughout the pandemic, media reports emphasized the role of young people’s compliance with public health measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and save the lives of older persons.
Cite this research | Open access | Vol.: 10 | Issue: 1 | No. of pages: 10 | Language: English | Topics: Health | Tags: child health, communication, COVID-19 response, disease control, information, lockdown, media, social distance | Countries: Canada
Significant increase in astigmatism in children after study at home during the COVID-19 lockdown

Yuanyuan Liang; Tsz-Wing Leung; Jinxiao Tina Lian (et al.)

Published: January 2022   Journal: Clinical and Experimental Optometry

Evaluating changes in refractive astigmatism after ‘study at home’ during the COVID pandemic may shed light on the aetiology of refractive errors. This study aims to investigate whether there has been a change in the proportion of astigmatism among primary school children after the school closure period during the COVID-19 pandemic.This observational study compared cross-sectional (2018: n = 112; 2020: n = 173) and longitudinal data (n = 38) collected from two vision screenings, one in 2018 and the other after the school closure period in 2020, in the same primary school for children aged 8–10 years. Non-cycloplegic refraction and axial length were measured using an open‐field auto‐refractometer and IOL Master, respectively. A questionnaire focusing on demographic information, near-work time, and outdoor activities was administered to parents of all participants.

Changes of internet behavior of adolescents across the period of COVID-19 pandemic in China

Qianying Wu; Tianzhen Chen; Na Zhong (et al.)

Published: January 2022   Journal: Psychology, Health & Medicine
During the COVID-19 pandemic, internet use and gaming of adolescents had been elevated. On the one hand, internet use and gaming in the period was a good approach to killing quarantined time. However, the increased use of the internet and game of adolescents may also increase the risk of internet addiction. This study aimed to describe the internet behavior changes of adolescents and to understand the impact of clinical features on internet addiction after the adolescents back to school in COVID-19 period. It conducted a cross-sectional cohort study using data collected through online investigation in China. Six hundred and twenty-five adolescents completed the online survey.
‘I already know about it, I’ve been watching the Daily News and updates’: teenagers’ questions about the scientific and social aspects of COVID-19

Jenny Byrne; Alison Marston; Marcus Grace (et al.)

Published: January 2022   Journal: Journal of Biological Education
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a surfeit of information and misinformation in the media about it. The lockdown in England meant that schools were closed from March to June, meaning that students had limited access, in school, to ask questions and discuss the biology of the novel virus (SARS-CoV-2) or the impact of the pandemic on themselves, their families and friends. In this small-scale exploratory study, we decided to ask students (15–16-year-olds) on their return to school in June 2020 and in September 2020, what they wanted to know about COVID-19. Findings show that their questions were similar at both time points, indicating that students wanted to know the same things. This suggests that despite the high volume of information available in the media, some of the students’ questions had not been answered or that sources of information were confused and at times contradictory. Interestingly, the questions they asked were based on reliable sources of news rather than fake news, and this finding seems to contradict the literature that indicates young people are prone to believing misinformation. The implications for teaching and learning about COVID-19, and other zoonotic diseases as socio-scientific issues are discussed.
Parent reports of children’s fright reactions to news of the COVID-19 pandemic: results from a national U.S. sample

Joanne Cantor; Kristen Harrison

Published: January 2022   Journal: Media Psychology
Between April 17 and 29, 2020, a nationwide online survey of parents of children between the ages of 3 and 17 years (N = 1560) was conducted. A majority of children were reported to be negatively emotionally affected (frightened, disturbed, or upset) by news coverage of COVID-19. Every stress symptom asked about (including nervousness, crying, and sleep problems) was dramatically more prevalent among children frightened than not frightened by the coverage. Open-ended questions illustrated the emotional depths of some responses. Developmental differences occurred in elements of coverage seen to influence fright. Most parents of frightened children tried to help their child cope, but their choices of strategies were only partially consistent with developmental expectations. Children with digital devices in their bedroom showed greater fear; more hours of COVID news were transmitted in homes with frightened than unfrightened children; and the relationship between media access and children’s fear intensity and stress symptoms remained after controlling for parents’ own fear and parents’ closeness with people diagnosed with COVID. Parents are encouraged to monitor children’s exposure to media-conveyed catastrophes, to be mindful of potential age differences in child responses, and to be available to help children cope.
Breastfeeding media coverage and beliefs during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mexico: implications for breastfeeding equity

M. Vilar-Compte; P. Gaitán-Rossi; E. C. Rhodes (et al.)

Published: December 2021   Journal: International Journal for Equity in Health
Because breastfeeding offers short- and long- term health benefits to mothers and children, breastfeeding promotion and support is a public health priority. Evidence shows that SARS-CoV-2 is not likely to be transmitted via breastmilk. Moreover, antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 are thought to be contained in breastmilk of mothers with history of COVID-19 infection or vaccination. WHO recommends direct breastfeeding as the preferred infant feeding option during the COVID-19 pandemic, even among women with COVID-19; but conflicting practices have been adopted, which could widen existing inequities in breastfeeding. This study aims to describe how information about breastfeeding was communicated in Mexican media during the pandemic and assess Mexican adults’ beliefs regarding breastfeeding among mothers infected with COVID-19.
Family resilience, media exposure, and children's mental health in China during COVID-19

Yaliu He; Xiaohui Sophie Li; Jiaqi Zhao (et al.)

Published: December 2021   Journal: The Family Journal
This study aims to describe children's mental health conditions in the time of COVID-19 and its associations with the risk factor (media exposure) and the protective factor (family resilience) during COVID-19. The study took place from February 13th to February 29th, 2020, at the peak of the outbreak all across China. In total 441 children (M  =  11.83 years old, SD  =  0.79) from Jiangxi province, China, filled out online surveys. The results showed that children's rates of depression were relatively high and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) rates were low. Based on the results of multiple linear regression analyses, family resilience was negatively associated with children's mental health issues including depression, anxiety, PTSD, and poor sleep quality counting the effects of children's age, gender, and media exposure. Children's media exposure to COVID-related news reports did not significantly contribute to the total variance of children's mental health symptoms.
Assessing adolescents’ critical health literacy: how is trust in government leadership associated with knowledge of COVID-19?

Channing J. Mathews; Luke McGuire; Angelina Joy (et al.)

Published: November 2021   Journal: Plos One
This study explored relations between COVID-19 news source, trust in COVID-19 information source, and COVID-19 health literacy in 194 STEM-oriented adolescents and young adults from the US and the UK. Analyses suggest that adolescents use both traditional news (e.g., TV or newspapers) and social media news to acquire information about COVID-19 and have average levels of COVID-19 health literacy. Hierarchical linear regression analyses suggest that the association between traditional news media and COVID-19 health literacy depends on participants’ level of trust in their government leader.
Tackling the infodemic using conversational insights: case study of UNICEF response in MENA
Institution: *UNICEF
Published: October 2021

Due to numerous socio-economic and cultural factors, the infodemic surrounding COVID-19 in Middle East and North Africa (MENA) hindered efforts towards curbing the spread of the disease which ulti[1]mately could have saved lives. International organizations such as UNICEF, WHO, and the International Commission of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) have all worked alongside local governments and stakeholders to ensure the public had access to accurate and reliable information about the efficacy of vaccines and public health and social measures. The case study at hand considers how conversational insights contributed to fighting the infodemic around COVID-19 in the MENA region. To this end, UNICEF MENA Regional Office is actively leveraging conver[1]sational data to combat the spread of vaccine misinformation, which ultimately helps the equitable distribution of vaccines and limits vaccine hesitancy. In an unexpected year of crisis, society turned to the media and entertainment. Combating misinformation is becoming increasingly complex and difficult to track. By showcasing how UNICEF in combating misinformation in MENA, it is clear that social listening and social media monitoring data must be accompanied by a robust plan that is holistic and data-driven. This case study also highlights the importance of putting empathy at the core of your strategy. Listening to people’s needs and understanding their concerns enables teams to resonate with the public’s sentiment.

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UNICEF Innocenti's Children and COVID-19 Library is a database collecting research from around the world on COVID-19 and its impacts on children and adolescents.


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COVID-19 & Children: Rapid Research Response

UNICEF Innocenti is mobilizing a rapid research response in line with UNICEF’s global response to the COVID-19 crisis. The initiatives we’ve begun will provide the broad range of evidence needed to inform our work to scale up rapid assessment, develop urgent mitigating strategies in programming and advocacy, and preparation of interventions to respond to the medium and longer-term consequences of the COVID-19 crisis. The research projects cover a rapid review of evidence, education analysis, and social and economic policies.