COVID-19 was been declared a global pandemic in March of 2020. The virus is having both short-term and far-reaching implications for families, friends and colleagues. As the virus continues to spread across the world, we are all facing multiple new stresses, including physical and psychological health risks, school and business closures, family confinement, isolation and economic vulnerability. Through all of that, children are particularly vulnerable.
During this time, many organizations around the world pointed out with different statements or reports the devastating impact that the pandemic crisis has to the children.
Save the Children has just released a new report, The Hidden Impact of Covid-19 on Children: A Global Research Series, the largest and most comprehensive study on the impact of COVID-19 on children. In this research, violence at home was reported at higher rates by children when schools were closed compared to when children were attending in person. “Nearly one-third (32%) of the households had a child and/or parent/caregiver reporting that violence had occurred in the home, including children and/or adults being verbally or physically abused.”
It is expected that stressors related to COVID-19, including concerns over restrictions, health, food security and income, could exacerbate violence against children, both increasing the risk to children already in abusive and neglectful households, as well as increasing the potential for over-stressed parents/caregivers to become violent or abusive.
COVID-19 has resulted in many children and their households turning to digital solutions to support children’s learning, socialization, leasure and play. The UN special representative of the secretary- General for combating violence against children, points out that the COVID-19 crisis heightens the risk of online child sexual exploitation. Europol found that law enforcement partners are reporting “increased online activity by those seeking child abuse material”, due to increasing opportunities for offenders to engage with children whom they expect to be more vulnerable due to isolation, less supervision and greater online exposure. 
Save of children report also concludes with some key recommendations to protect children from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and measures to address it; such recommendations include:
- Listening to children of all genders, ensuring dialogue and further research, to take the experience of the impact of COVID-19 on children and households into account in designing response plans.
- Committing to prioritise child protection within COVID-19 response plans, placing child protection and social welfare provisions as central components within national and local level infectious disease emergency preparedness plans.
- Designating the social service workforce – both formal and informal – as essential workers, with support to adapt responses to continue safely providing essential services to children and households in the community.
- Providing urgently needed funding for child protection programming, including for children’s and caregivers’ mental health and psycho-social support, and gender-based violence response services.
- Ensuring that child protection services are well resourced, inclusive and supported including through increasing the numbers and reach of trained and skilled child protection workers and addressing access barriers for persons with disabilities and other vulnerable groups, and that all aspects of child protection systems – including laws and policies, law enforcement agencies and child protection services – take into account the violence potentially experienced by children at home during the lockdown and equivalent measures taken by countries to address the pandemic
- Ensuring that responses to COVID-19 do not exacerbate the particular vulnerability of children during this pandemic, and that of girls in particular to harmful gender norms, discriminatory practices and inequalities, while ensuring that quality services are reaching those who are most vulnerable, including people with disabilities. This will require a. support for effective, adapted and inclusive reporting mechanisms; b. further research on the impact of COVID-19 and measures to address it on children’s protection; c. the collection of disaggregated data to ensure that future investments are data driven, informed by gender analysis, and targeted to the most vulnerable and marginalised children and households, including those with disabilities.
- Ensuring that child protection risk factors are understood and integrated into social protection and child benefit programmes, with the objective of helping prevent and mitigate violence against children, exploitation and family separation and promote adequate care.
- Ensuring that education and child protection sectors are enabled to proactively work together to put child-friendly, effective protection response mechanisms in place that can function through school structures and outside them, particularly within plans for the transition of children back to school/education safely
- Integrating child protection messaging in COVID-19 risk communication and community engagement, training frontline health professionals in psychological first aid and detection and referral of child protection risks
- Strengthening integration of high-quality mental health and psycho-social well-being programmes with gender sensitive child protection systems and services to prevent and address gender-based violence.
In order to protect and empower children during the pandemic, the Council of Europe has developed a series of awareness raising material which can also be used and is available on a special dedicated webpage in many languages at: https://www.coe.int/en/web/children/covid-19
Below you can find more resources from different organizations with more details about the violence at children during pandemic crisis and how states may implement new plans in order to ensure safety to children.