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‘Frightening The Pants Off’ Our Children
In December 2020, UsForThem published an essay voicing its concerns about the damage fear messaging had on children. In light of the WhatsApp revelations, we are reissuing it.
In December 2020, UsForThem published an essay on our concerns about the damage fear messaging was having on children. We are reissuing this in light of the serious revelations in former Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s ‘WhatsApp’ messages.
It turns out Project Fear was real. The Telegraph’s ‘Lockdown Files’ investigation has shown that Matt Hancock wanted to “frighten the pants” off everyone – including our children – with Simon Case, now Head of the Civil Service, saying that “the fear/guilt factor” was “vital”.
At the end of 2020, following the second lockdown, UsForThem was receiving increasingly distressing stories from parents about the impact of fear messaging. The never-ending restrictions included children wearing masks (which we now understand was to placate Sturgeon), children sent home from school for weeks at a time – sometimes as a whole year group because one pupil had tested positive (messages have revealed that the government thought it was too complicated to unpick the comms) – and a severely restricted curriculum and selection of activities.
UsForThem published the following essay in December 2020 in Lockdown Sceptics (now The Daily Sceptic). It is heart-breaking reading it two years later, with the knowledge that schools would be shut again only a few weeks later. We are reminded of the damaging situation in which our children were placed, and how normally reasonable adults demonised them as ‘vectors of disease’. We pleaded, “As adults, we have a duty of care towards all children, and terrorising them into submission should never be a part of it”.
How we wish our call had been heard. Thanks to the ‘Lockdown Files’ we now know that at this time, over in the Department of Health and Social Care, Hancock was plotting a “rear-guard action” to close schools once again and cause catastrophic harm to millions of children.
Fear Messaging and its Impact on Children
(first published in Lockdown Sceptics 12/20)
"Don't Kill Granny" was the eye-catching phrase used by Preston Council to scare young people into sticking to the regulations. Young people knew the risk to themselves was almost non-existent; they had complied with five months of lockdown - missing out on education, exams and social development to help flatten the curve- and now they wanted to see friends in the sun. The council and then the Health Secretary used this phrase as a deliberate policy to scare and guilt-trip our children and young people into compliance. More frighteningly, it marked a moment in the pandemic when children and young people have become the scapegoats for any increase in transmission rates. The government  admitted that increasing fear in the general public was central to ensuring compliance. Still, it is low when this is targeted directly at children in a way that could scar them for life.
The calling by unions and local councils to close schools early or restart them later increases the story that children are to blame. Indeed, Sadiq Khan explicitly said, "if the government isn't careful, these children will pass on the virus to vulnerable people because the rules are relaxed". If Granny dies or cannot visit as you have to isolate, it is all your fault. A teenager drew how he felt being accused of killing a teacher by not wearing a mask (he's exempt) on his first day in a new school. One glance at the child shows how humiliated he feels.
Children are egocentric and naturally tend to assume that their behaviour has made something happen  - these messages play on this fear making our children feel even more confused and concerned. One young boy tearfully told UsForThem that he didn't want to go to school because he was scared that he'd get the virus and make everyone isolate over Christmas, but he was also terrified that school would be closed as he couldn't bear remote schooling again. In normal times, society encourages our children to be in school, but in these "Alice in Wonderland" times, they are made to feel guilty about wanting to be there.
Adults have taken this idea of children being "carriers" to heart, despite there being limited evidence, and have started excluding children from places with older people. We've heard of a minister asking children not to come to church as they would "terrorise elderly members of the congregation", and four-year-olds being refused entry into shops as "children are high risk". That four-year-old is now anxious to go to new places and insists on wearing a mask as she does not want to hurt anyone - how can that be acceptable?
School should offer all children a safe place to be, especially for those whose home life is full of fear. A sense of safety is central to our ability to learn and thrive socially. The feeling that the world is a scary place, and now schools are "vectors for Covid", as described by the National Education Union, means that children are fearful of the one place they should feel safe. The increase in restrictions- hazard tape around play equipment, Perspex separating desks- all triggering reminders of death, contagion and illness. Vivienne, age eight, wrote this heart-breaking poem about making the wrong choice - no child should feel that they have to say goodbye to the light, nor that their action has made this happen.
Children want to fit in , and being made to be stand out is unsettling. Those children who cannot comply with all the social distancing regulations are singled out - often those who are mask exempt have to wear a badge, so everyone knows they are different. This must be pure hell for any child and known to have negative implications on psychological health . The idea of children being tested over extended periods - allowed in if positive, sent home if negative - reinforces the notion that they have done something wrong or worse they are something wrong. A generation of children brought up to believe that they are deficit and their bodies are capable of doing terrible things to others does not bode well for their ability to grow into adults. These children have lost months of education, social interaction, and now society is ramping up the message that they are killers. As adults, we have a duty of care towards all children, and terrorising them into submission should never be part of it.
 Blakemore, S-J, (2018), Inventing Ourselves
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