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Canadian kids miss their friends, fear missing out on school: survey

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WINNIPEG —
Over the last two months, the pandemic has brought a new unexpected reality of staying home for many Canadians. A new survey from the Angus Reid Institute is looking at how this is affecting kids.

The Angus Reid Institute released its findings in a new report called ‘Kids & COVID-19’ about how children in Canada are dealing with the pandemic.

The non-profit institution said it asked 650 children between the ages of 10 and 17 from across the country about their thoughts and concerns.

“Seventy-one per cent (of children) say the word they would use to describe what they’ve been experiencing in the last couple weeks is boredom,” said Shachi Kurl, executive director of the Angus Reid Institute.

The study said older children are twice as likely to feel “angry” compared to younger people aged 10 to 15.

“I think feelings of anger can be connected to a sense of powerlessness and feeling a bit out of control,” said Marion Cooper, executive director of the Canadian Mental Health Association, Manitoba and Winnipeg.

“There useful routines and normal lives have been interrupted in a significant way.”

When it comes to online learning, the study said 75 per cent reported keeping up with their studies, but 60 per cent said they are unmotivated. About 57 per cent said they dislike having to learn from home.

More than half (54 per cent) of the respondents said they miss their friends, only 16 percent said they miss extracurricular activities. When asked how they would feel about returning to the class in the next month, only 36 per cent said they are looking forward to it.

Kurl said concern about school is intensified among older teenagers.

“If you’re in grade 11 or 12, you’re really worried about the lost school time,” said Kurl. “This is the culmination of so many years of hard work, whether it’s being accepted into University or maybe going to college on a sports scholarship.”

So what are children doing to fill their time in isolation? According to the study, about 88 per cent said they are watching movies and streaming TV and media content. About 74 per cent of the respondents listed video games as an outlet. The study found older teens are spending time on social media and calling and texting friends.

Cooper said there are things parents can do if they’re concerned about their children’s mental health.

“Minimize their exposure with the news, and the constant focus on the impact this is having,” said Cooper. “Getting active and getting outdoors, those are all really important strategies that promote mental and well being.”

METHODOLOGY

Angus Reid Institute conducted this online survey between May 1 and 4 among 650 Canadian children whose parents are members of the Angus Reid Forum. The Angus Reid Institute said for comparison purposes only a probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of +/- four percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

Parents and guardians were asked first if they had children between the ages of 10 and 17 and if they would give their consent for the children to take part in the survey. Angus Reid Institute said it drew interviewees from key demographic groups, including household income, education levels and official languages spoken.  

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COVID-19 takes toll on physical health of young Canadians, scientists, school board find

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Just five per cent of Canadian children met basic physical activity guidelines early on in the pandemic, which is why school phys-ed programs are now looking for alternatives to get students to work up a sweat in a safe fashion.

As a result of physical distancing measures and increased remote learning, children have had more sedentary time during the pandemic, and that has had implications for schools planning physical education.

The Toronto District School Board, for instance, has asked gym teachers to cancel fall fitness training after phys-ed instructors reported that students’ physical activity levels have been alarming so far.

“They’ve noticed that kids are out of breath immediately, so the lack of physical activity that’s taken place over the last seven months is showing,” said George Kourtis, who heads the TDSB’s phys-ed program.

Even so, educators say it’s imperative that kids get a workout of some sort. But that comes with challenges in a remote learning environment.

WATCH | Schools adjust as kids lacked exercise during lockdown:

At one point in the pandemic, only five per cent of Canadian children were meeting the minimum requirements for physical activity. Now, school phys-ed programs face new challenges in keeping kids moving without most team sports because of distancing requirements. 4:10

Jennifer Bell, a Grade 11 phys-ed teacher with TDSB’s virtual school, recently demonstrated lunges to a class by doing the movements toward her laptop screen. But the students had their cameras turned off, which makes the learning more difficult.

“How do we teach sports skills while you’re standing in your living room?” Bell said. “You don’t necessarily have another opponent or a partner to play a sport with. That’s where we’re trying to get creative.”

Physically distanced football

Getting creative includes activities like juggling to practise movement skills and having students regularly type in their 15-second heart rate measurements to show that their heart rate is increasing from the participation, Bell said.

Maryam Sabir, 14, is taking Grade 9 phys-ed in person in Toronto. Maryam said physical distancing rules put a new twist on learning to play football.

Sagier Abdul takes part in a football lesson at her Toronto high school earlier this month. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

“You had to stay six feet apart,” both horizontally and vertically, Maryam said. “You can’t really communicate with other people. It becomes harder to play in the game.”

Maryam said she enjoys being physically active. When the phys-ed class ends next month, she plans to continue to get a workout by playing basketball or soccer with friends.

Importance of movement

National health guidelines recommend that children and youth (aged 5-17 years) have high levels of physical activity, low levels of sedentary behaviour and sufficient sleep each day, including: 

  • An accumulation of at least 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity (such as walking quickly enough to still be able to talk but not sing).
  • Nine to 11 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night for those aged five to 13 and eight to 10 hours per night for those aged 14 to 17, with consistent bed and wake-up times.
  • No more than two hours per day of recreational screen time.

Mark Tremblay, a senior scientist in obesity at the CHEO Research Institute in Ottawa, was part of a team that surveyed more than 1,400 parents of children and youth online nationally in April, about a month after the COVID-19 pandemic was declared in Canada.

Prior to the pandemic, about 15 per cent of kids met Canada’s 24-hour guidelines for physical activity, sedentary time and sleep, said Tremblay.

Kids do a workout in the park in Coronado, Calif., in March. Public health messaging about staying home is important, but it doesn’t mean you have to stay inside, said one obesity researcher. (Gregory Bull/Associated Press)

He found that movement levels had plunged as low as three per cent during the early days of the restrictions.

“Almost no Canadian kids were practising the healthy living behaviours that are associated with health, and that puts them at increased risk, of course, of physical and mental health issues going forward,” Tremblay said, which “is not what public health officials want.”

The study, published this summer in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, suggested that the pandemic wasn’t entirely to blame. But certain factors could increase the likelihood of healthy movement behaviours outside of school, including:

  • Parental encouragement and support.
  • Parents playing actively with their children.
  • Dog ownership.

The lack of physical activity was also influenced by children’s living arrangements. Kids who spent more time active outdoors were more likely to live in a house as opposed to a 40-story apartment building downtown where families may not feel safe playing outside, Tremblay said.

Tremblay said the public health messaging about staying home is important, “but it doesn’t mean stay inside.”

The scientists plan to repeat their survey on kids’ physical activity levels in early November.

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East end Toronto residents push for opening up of outdoor bake oven

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A group of residents in Toronto’s east end is pushing the city to open its outdoor bake ovens, saying cooking outside is safe and allows for physical distancing, but the city is not warming up to the idea.

Five east end residents gave the permanent bake oven in Fairmount Park, at Gerrard Street East near Coxwell Avenue, a cosmetic upgrade over the weekend, hoping they will be able to use it this winter.

Volunteers painted it a rusty red colour and replaced most of the shingles on the roof.

Barry Ross, an area resident, said the oven would benefit the neighbourhood amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The oven has been closed since the pandemic hit the city in March.

“I can’t see that a family couldn’t come over from the neighborhood and just decide to have a fun little dinner on a Sunday afternoon,” he said. 
    
“As we’ve gone through the summer and getting closer into the fall, we started thinking, well, maybe there will be some more leniency to permit bake ovens to start functioning again, particularly for, not for big group things, but just maybe small family picnics.”

At these events, there would be respect for physical distancing and there would not be mingling of large groups, he said.

Ross said the ovens would be easier to regulate because not just anyone can fire them up. Training by the city is required to use them and keys are needed to access them. A number of local residents are now qualified to use it, he said.

The oven is a good fit with nearby natural ice rinks, he said. Ross said residents plan to continue to lobby for it to be fired up again and to have booking done through social media.

Barry Ross, a Fairmount Park resident, said allowing the oven to be used would benefit the neighbourhood amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Joe Fiorino/CBC)

In a statement to CBC Toronto on Monday, the city said no permits are being issued for outdoor bake ovens following recommendations from Toronto Public Health related to food preparation and public events.

“The City continues to work closely with Toronto Public Health on plans for fall and winter outdoor recreation activities for Toronto residents. Decisions to resume service or offer new service will be made in consultation with Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health,” Jaclyn Carlisle, spokesperson for the city, said in the statement.

Carlisle said residents are encouraged to stay close to home as daily case counts continue to remain high in the city.

“As Toronto remains in a modified Stage 2, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health continues to stress that people should only consider leaving their homes for essential activities such as work, education and fitness,” she said.

“As much as possible, residents are asked to limit contact with people not in the same household, keep at least six feet apart from people not in the same household and wear a mask when outside of their homes.”

A sign on the Fairmount Park bake oven urges people not to climb on the structure or spray it with graffiti. (CBC)

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U.S. Borders With Canada And Mexico Will Stay Closed Another Month

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The U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico will stay closed to non-essential travel for at least another month.

Bill Blair, Canada’s public safety minister, tweeted on Monday, “We are extending non-essential travel restrictions with the United States until November 21st, 2020. Our decisions will continue to be based on the best public health advice available to keep Canadians safe.”

The United States and Mexico have both seen far higher COVID-19 mortality rates than Canada.

Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, confirmed the news.

“To continue to limit the spread of COVID, the US, Mexico, & Canada will extend the restrictions on non-essential travel through Nov 21,” he tweeted. “We are working closely with Mexico & Canada to identify safe criteria to ease the restrictions in the future & support our border communities.”

In an interview with a Canadian radio station on Monday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau noted that the country’s southern neighbor does not have the virus under control.

“The situation in the United States continues to be of concern. So we’re going to make sure we’re keeping Canadians safe as best as we can,” Trudeau told Global News.

“Canadians can be deeply reassured to know that various orders of government are always going to work together to keep them safe, unlike some other places we see around the world,” he said.

The borders have been closed since March 23.

The U.S. Embassy in Canada explains that the border policy applies to automotive, commuter rail, and ferry travel but not air, rail, or sea travel. It also states:

“‘Non-essential’ travel includes travel that is considered tourism or recreational in nature. ‘Essential travel’ still permitted includes: work and study, critical infrastructure support, economic services and supply chains, health, immediate medical care, and safety and security.”

In addition to the border regulations, there are additional rules about entering Canada, the United States and Mexico during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last month, President Trump said Canada wanted the border to reopen, and said “we’re going to be opening the borders pretty soon.” But public opinion surveys have found that Canadians support keeping the border closed.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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