Possession and use of digital devices always on the increase and at an earlier age, with the consequent pervasiveness of these tools in the lives of school-age children. These are the relevant data found in the second edition of the Milano-Bicocca research, after the first held in May 2020. Both editions of the survey “Children and lockdown, the word to parents” were conducted by the Italian Society of Pediatric Primary Care (SICuPP Lombardia- Marina Picca, President and scientific coordinator of the project for pediatricians) with the collaboration of a group of researchers from the University of Milan-Bicocca (Paolo Ferri and Chiara Bove, professors of the Department of Human Sciences for Education) and of the spin off of the University of Milano-Bicocca “Bambini Bicocca” (Susanna Mantovani, scientific coordinator). The researchers re-proposed in May 2021 to the more than 3,000 families involved in the first survey, the two online questionnaires partially differentiated according to age – children aged 1-5 years and children aged 6 to 10 years – in order to learn about the evolution of the experience of parents and children in the months following the first lockdown (from September 2020 to May 2021). Almost all (93%) of the respondents are mothers with a medium-high educational qualification with children of these age groups residing in Milan city and in all the provinces of Lombardy, the region most affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. “Nutrition and sleep – says Marina Picca, president of SICuPP Lombardia – continue to be put to the test. Compared to the 2020 data, we have seen an improvement, but elements of concern persist. A new data not investigated in the 2020 research is the presence of physical discomfort in children, especially in school age. The persistence of some behaviors that testify to mental and physical health malaise cause concern and impose the need to invest more in supporting children, parents and families “. In children from 1 to 5 years old, parents have registered a decrease in irritability and tantrums (63% against 81% in 2020), even if a quarter of the interviewees report a feeling of sadness / melancholy in their children. Nutrition and sleep still show the marked alterations encountered last year: both the reduction in appetite (over 37%) often accompanied by an increase in the consumption of snacks (44%) and the difficulty in falling asleep remain (38, 6% with an increase in the frequency of nocturnal awakenings (over 56%). On the relationship front, preschool children are heavily burdened by not playing with other children (60% and not being able to go out freely (about 30%). Among children 6-10 years of age, a new data emerged, not investigated in the first edition of the survey: the presence or absence of physical ‘malaise’ disorders: about 40% of primary school children suffered from it (especially headache, stomach ache, fatigue, eye disorders) And in the family? Especially for the primary school age (6-11), a worsening of the adult-child ratio was observed (from 11.4% in 2020 to 21.6% in 2021 ), a figure that goes against the trend of the first survey in 2020. A figure that testifies to the emotional fatigue of the family system. Digital has proved to be an increasingly important aspect in children’s lives: 58.4% of children aged 6-10 have a personal device, a percentage that is significantly higher than in the first lockdown (23.5%). Age also drops: 9.2% of children between 1 and 5 years old had a cell phone, now 14.5% have one. The direct consequence of this is a strong increase in use even outside of didactic use, in particular for older children (52.5%). In this regard, the researchers underline, the “digital fatigue” effect does not even seem to be found, on the contrary it is perhaps conceivable a sort of addiction to the use of the digital tool, which is no longer perceived as something “special” and occasional but it becomes the interface with which life is experienced, from learning to leisure. “With the pandemic – affirms Paolo Ferri – digital technology has become an increasingly present element in the lives of children. Families perceive it as an element “Natural” of their world. You cannot go back or impose bans. Instead, it is a question of training parents, teachers and children in a conscious, critical and creative use of the smartphone. transform into a ‘babysitter’ or worse, into a ‘dispenser’ of standardized lifestyles and commercial products! A challenging and complex task for parents and for all those who professionally deal with The family-school relationship, finally, as almost all parents underline, was well maintained: this is demonstrated by the percentage of children of both age groups who reacted to the new school closure in April 2021 with sadness in 50% of the youngest and 65% of the oldest.
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