While much coverage around the world has looked at how to keep readers engaged and entertained during COVID-19 lockdowns, Vocento was concerned about how the long lockdown was affecting children. It used its XL Semanal magazine to explore that topic and engage children.
As the most widely read magazine in Spain, XL Semanal is in a unique position to reach a large segment of the population. Staff decided to publish a special feature showing how children are experiencing quarantine. To do that, they invited all Vocento employees with children under the age of 10 to have their child contribute a drawing illustrating their life under quarantine. Then they showed the drawings to various psychologists for them to analyse for the feature.
The magazine’s idea received a warm response from Vocento employees: XL Semanal received more than 200 drawings, which were then analysed by psychologists as part of the feature on childhood in lockdown.
The magazine, which is distributed with Vocento’s 12 newspapers every Sunday, published its special feature on April 12 and, based on their analysis of the drawings, the experts reached the following conclusions:
- Many of the children drew monsters arriving in spaceships. This shows that at this age they cannot fully distinguish between reality and fantasy.
- For right-handed children, it is normal to start drawing on one part of the page and then move to the right. For left-handed children, it is the opposite. If this direction changes during quarantine, it may be a sign of feelings of isolation and sadness or of distancing from reality.
- In many of the drawings there were some very heavy lines. This can be a sign of aggression, anger, or a lack of control over feelings, all of which could reflect emotional changes resulting from the lockdown.
- Other drawings contained a high number of erasures. This could be related to insecurity and uncertainty. Children may be constantly rubbing out and redrawing because they are not sure about the result and about the feelings that they want to express.
- When children draw their family, the way in which they draw family members is very significant: whom they start drawing first, the order, the size of each person, the detail or lack of detail of a family member. For children who have suffered the loss of some family member, it is very likely they will represent this in their drawings. Everyone has their own way of mourning, but children often use very dark colours and may include the person who has died. This may show that they have still not come to terms with their loss.
In addition to analysing what children were drawing and what it meant, the psychologists then offered suggestions on what behavioural changes parents should look for, how parents could talk with their children about what is happening, and even how to help them manage grief and loss if they lost family members.
This is a case study from INMA’s August 2020 report What a Pandemic Taught Media About Community Engagement, free to INMA members.