Fears for Wigan youngsters being part of "Generation Isolation" as they retreat to the bedroom post-pandemic
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A major new study into the social lives of children and young people aged 11 to 18 in England published by youth charity OnSide, shows that young people in the North West are navigating a world outside of school that is increasingly isolated and home-based, with limited opportunities for face-to-face socialising and making new friends.
Wigan Youth Zone, which is part of OnSide’s network of 14 Youth Zones, has reacted to the startling findings, emphasing the opportunities these centres give young people opportunities to socialise, make friends and build valuable life skills.
Generation Isolation finds that one in five young people (19 per cent) in England spends most of their free time alone – that’s almost a million young people (988,000) living isolated lives with 17 per cent in the North West.
Only 14 per in the North West said that they spent most of their free time in person with their friends.
Despite common misconceptions around how young people spend their time, 76 per cent spend most of their time at home with 49 per cent spending most of their free time in their bedroom while just two per cent spend most of their time hanging out on the street.
OnSide’s survey of 5,078 11 to 18-year-olds in England published in partnership with YouGov, builds a picture of young people struggling to socialise away from screens with 73 per cent of young people surveyed spending most of their free time on screens.
Over half of young people in the North say they are watching more streamed content now than before lockdown; 35 per cent of young people say they gaming more and 33 per cent are watching more TV.
Playing computer games is the most time-consuming leisure time activity for young people with 26 per cent spending most of their free time outside school doing this, followed by a further 26 per cent use their phones the most and 20 per cent watch streamed content.
Generation Isolation shows that youth clubs like the Wigan Youth Zone play a vital role in enabling young people to build rich social lives, develop skills and build resilience.
Some 84 per cent of young people in the North West currently attending a youth centre say it has made a positive difference on their lives with 71 per cent saying it has given them new skills.
The Youth Zone’s head of youth work Nikki Varley, said: “Sadly, these stats are not surprising given current challenges our young are facing on systemic and personal levels.
"We are seeing a huge increase in screen addiction, sleep cycle difficulties, social anxiety, attention deficit and eating disorders.
"It is clear that the impact of the pandemic on young people’s emotional health and well-being will be felt for a long time to come.
"It’s why I believe so powerfully that youth services up and down the country such as those provided across the OnSide Network of Youth Zones, are so important – as together we are committed to being there for all young people who need support in the long term.
“Mental Health is a big priority for us. To help support the increasing need from young people we have trained staff and volunteers as Mental Health First Aiders along with one-to-one well-being workers every day of the week, thanks to the funding we received from The Prudence Trust.
"This means any young person needing support with issues relating to their emotional health and well-being, whether that be anxiety, depression or loneliness always has someone to talk to that can advise them, or signpost them to other partner support services to ensure they get the holistic support needed.”