This is a summary, written by members of the CITF Secretariat.
Patel, P., Li, X., Keown-Stoneman, C. D., Vanderloo, L. M., Kinlin, L. M., Maguire, J. L., & Birken, C. S. (2023). Changes in Pediatric Movement Behaviors During the COVID-19 Pandemic by Stages of Lockdown in Ontario, Canada: A Longitudinal Cohort Study, Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 20(4), 292-302. https://doi.org/10.1123/jpah.2022-0393
The results and/or conclusions contained in the research do not necessarily reflect the views of all CITF members.
A CITF-funded study, published in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, found that children under 5 years of age had greater increases in screen use, but lower increases in physical activity and outdoor play time compared to children between the ages of 5 and 12 during COVID-19 lockdowns. This study was led by Dr. Jonathan Maguire (University of Toronto).
The first lockdown occurred between March 17 to June 23, 2020 and the first reopening stage between June 24 to November 22, 2020. The second lockdown occurred between November 23, 2020 to June 10, 2021. The second reopening stage occurred between June 11 to the end of the study period, August 30, 2021.
- On average, screen time increased during the first and second lockdown and decreased during the second reopening. This may be attributed tothe lack of alternative activities available during lockdown when public health restrictions were in place, such as restrictions on organized sports.
- Physical activity and outdoor time increased during the first lockdown, decreased during the first reopening, and increased again during the second reopening. The observed increase in physical activity and outdoor time during the first lockdown and decrease during the first reopening could be attributed to having more free time due to the cancelationof structured in-person activities, including attendance at school.
- Minimal changes to sleep were observed over the course of the lockdowns and reopenings.
- Compared with older children, younger children had a greater increase in screen time during the first and second lockdowns, and a lower decrease in the second reopening. This may be because younger children have less independence and freedom than older children to occupy their time with unsupervised non-screen-based activities during lockdown.
- Compared with children from lower income households (less than $80,000), children from higher income households ($80,000 or more) had a greater increase in screen time during the first and second lockdown, and a greater decrease in the second reopening. This may be because children from higher income households were enrolled in more extracurricular activities prior to COVID-19, hence were more affected by lockdown-related recreational closures and openings.
This study provides crucial information for policy makers to consider when developing lockdown-related restrictions as it could lead to an increase in screen time and sedentary behavior in children. When developing lockdown-related restrictions, policy makers need to consider ensuring safe access to play spaces and encouraging time spent outdoors to offset the time for screen use.
Children under the age of 12 were recruited from the TARGet Kids! study and parents were invited to complete repeated biweekly questionnaires about their children’s school and daycare attendance, and sociodemographic information and movement behaviors (screen time, physical activity time, outdoor time, and sleep duration), during the pre-COVID stage, COVID-19 lockdown stages and re-opening stages.