The initial data from the survey "Children and young people: behaviour, attitudes, and future projects", carried out in 2021 by the National Institute of Statistics with the support of the Ministry of Education, are available on the ISTAT website (Italian Institute of National Statistics).
The research involved a sample of around 41,000 students from first and second grade secondary schools, and focused on various topics – distance learning, relationships with peers and family, the use of social media, citizenship and the future plans of the new generation - with the aim of understanding the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the daily lives of children and young people, in order to highlight the vulnerabilities and strengths of the country's youngest citizens.
According to the survey data, almost all students in the first and second grade secondary schools (98.7%, equivalent to over 4,220,000 students) have had to use distance learning (later labelled as Integrated Digital Teaching).
The obligatory recourse to distance learning has certainly introduced a step change in the use of digital technologies, but also new elements of inequality connected to existing digital (and socio-economic) gaps. Only 80% of Italian children were able to immediately and regularly follow distance learning programmes in the period between March and June 2020, while among foreigners, the percentage of those who were able to regularly take part in online lessons dropped to 71.4%.
The report said, "During the emergency the schools, together with other public and private social structures, have tried to support the most disadvantaged children by providing PCs and tablets, but the initial results of the survey clearly show that, even after the first lockdown, it was not possible to completely bridge the gap".
In the 2020/2021 school year, foreign children used computers to follow distance learning to a lesser extent than their Italian peers (72.1% compared to 85.3% of Italians), while they used their mobile phones more to follow classes (64.3% compared to 53.7%).
The data also show difficulties in accessing the distance learning classes for students from the south. In the south and the islands, the share of those who have connected using computers was 80.1% compared to 84.8% in the centre, 85.8% in the north-west, and 89.9% in the north-east. Most disadvantaged of all, were foreigners attending schools in the south. Only 61.5% of them had access to a PC, a much lower percentage than those who live in the north-east (78%), in the north-west (73%) and in the centre (70.5%).
The survey also showed that not all young people had a stable Internet connection in their home. 50.9% reported problems, while 43.3% reported that they had an excellent connection.
Other data reveal that the vast majority of first and second grade secondary school students did not find distance learning effective. 67.7% said they prefer face-to-face teaching, 20.4% believe the two types of teaching are equal in value, while only 11.9% prefer distance learning.
As for relationships with peers, even before the pandemic, 17.3% of foreign secondary school students never saw their friends outside school hours, compared to 5.8% of their Italian peers. "Those who had less have also lost less: the frequency with which friends were seen outside school hours compared to before the pandemic decreased by 50.9% for Italian students and by 46.2% for foreigner students". The decrease in direct relationships was offset by increased use of chat apps and social networks, increasing by 69.9% for Italian students and by 64.1% for foreigner students.
The data are available on the dedicated section of the website.