The Pandemic Generation: Children’s inclusion and participation in Covid-19 health promotion in Aotearoa New Zealand
There are 1.1 million children and young people in Aotearoa New Zealand, representing 20% of the “team of 5 million” who have collectively worked to control Covid-19 over the last two years. For this “pandemic generation,” the Covid-19 era has, and will continue to represent a significant proportion of their childhoods.
Yet globally, childhood studies scholars have observed an under-representation of children in Covid-19 media and public health policy and messaging, where focus on children has been generally limited to questions of their susceptibility to or ability to transmit virus, or the social, developmental, educational and economic impacts of disruption. These things are important, but they are not the full story. When we forget to think of children as participants in the pandemic, we reduce them to caricatures of risk, vulnerability, suffering, and passive recipients of care.
The Pandemic Generation study is about seeing children as whole people, as public health promoters, and as people who engage with government mandates and protocols, and contribute to the care and protection of their families, communities, and nation as well as their own self-care. This study was about hearing children’s own perspectives on their experiences, challenges, and needs in order to better inform policy to support them. Because children are a marginalised social group with few opportunities to speak and be heard, it is critically important that researchers, as mandated by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) actively solicit children’s perspectives and advocate for their inclusion in matters that affect them.
This research therefore seeks to answer 3 main questions:
1. How have children been represented, included or excluded in/from COVID-19 public health promotion, media and messaging?
2. How have children experienced, perceived and understood the pandemic, the coronavirus, and public health messaging in the context of their everyday childhoods?
3. How have children participated in public health promotion?
These questions will be addressed through two strands of research: 1) an analysis of NZ policy and media documents relating to the pandemic, and 2) comic-making based interviews with children. Through comparing children’s representation and their realities, I aim to indicate areas where children may be better supported by health promotion policy in future.