Background Children and young people risk being ‘disproportionately harmed’ by the COVID-19 pandemic. Whilst an evolving body of literature focuses on the impact of the pandemic on the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people, less attention has been paid to the collection of qualitative, exploratory data. The aim of this study was to examine young people in North East England’s experiences of COVID-19 and associated control measures.
Methods Flexible, qualitative diaries were collected with 31 young people aged 13–17 for six weeks between July and October 2020. Diary extracts were curated using Instagram Direct Messaging (DM), email and text messaging. At the end of the study, participants took part in a follow-up interview (conducted by telephone or Zoom), asking them to reflect on their diary entries.
Results Thematic analysis of diaries and interviews yielded three central themes: (1) impacts of social distancing upon mental health and emotional wellbeing; (2) impacts of the pandemic on education and school life; and (3) frustration, burden and responsibility.
Discussion These findings highlight acute mental health impacts (loneliness, isolation, anxiety) as well as longer-term repercussions from disrupted education (missed parts of curriculum, home schooling, cancelled exams, periods of isolation) on young people aged 13–17 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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