Lockdown review: Face-to-face exchange makes adolescents happier than online contact

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Online contact could not replace face-to-face contact during the second school lockdown / Report on the results of the SOCIALBOND project on social integration in adolescence

During the second school lockdown, students suffered above all from limited face-to-face contact with friends. This is what the results of a survey conducted within the framework of the SOCIALBOND project headed by Clemens Kroneberg, Professor of Sociology and member of the Cluster of Excellence ECONtribute: Markets & Public Policy at the University of Cologne, show.

The research team surveyed nearly 600 ninth-graders from 29 schools in North Rhine-Westphalia, including Gesamt-, Haupt-, Realand Sekundarschulen as well as Gymnasien, with a 20-minute questionnaire about their everyday school life and leisure behaviour. In addition, about half of the students received eight mini-questionnaires on their daily mood and activities sent to their smartphones over a period of four weeks during home schooling.

The result: For the majority of students (70 per cent), it was the most difficult to have less contact with people who are important to them. They perceived the restrictions in leisure as significantly worse than independent learning in home schooling or everyday family life during school closures. During days on which they left home or had face-to-face contact with friends, youth were more likely to report being happy and excited and less likely to be sad, depressed, lonely, and bored. In contrast, online contact only - by far the most common form of interaction during the second school lockdown - did not improve their mood. ’According to our results, parents can hope for better-tempered children in the course of daily face-to-face classes, which started again on Monday for many pupils in Germany,’ Kroneberg remarked. On average, the adolescents reported that they had been neither particularly unhappy or unbalanced, nor very happy or balanced during home schooling. On average, the girls surveyed found the restrictions more stressful than the boys and were more likely to report being sad, depressed, lonely, or worried. The researchers note that no direct conclusions can be drawn from their results to the totality of all ninth-graders in NRW.

The survey was conducted as part of the SOCIALBOND project funded by the European Research Council. SOCIALBOND aims to contribute to a better understanding of the social integration of young people. Since 2018, SOCIALBOND has surveyed children in secondary schools in North Rhine-Westphalia annually.

Clemens Kroneberg is a member of ’ECONtribute: Markets & Public Policy’ at the universities of Bonn and Cologne. ECONtribute is the only Cluster of Excellence in economics funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG). The Cluster conducts research on markets at the intersections of business, politics, and society. The aim of ECONtribute is to better understand markets and to develop a fundamentally new approach to the analysis of market failures that meets the social, technological, and economic challenges of today, such as increasing inequality and political polarization or global financial crises.

Listen to further research on education and the coronavirus pandemic in the ’ECONtribute Wirtschaftspodcast’. In July, an episode with Clemens Kroneberg focuses on the question whether integration works in German schools: https://econtribute.de/newsr­oom/#media