Where do the children play? When Cat Stevens penned this iconic song in 1970, he may not have had Covid-19 in mind, but the dystopian view he presents, where children can no longer play and the fundamental impact on their lives, is not far from life in lockdown.
The resurgence of Covid-19 and our current lockdown situation has left me asking where do the children play in lockdown 4 and 3? How do they learn and enjoy their childhood in this restricted environment? What does their future look like? What is the impact of the Covid-19 virus and emergency, now and in their future?
For many tamariki, they will come through this time of upheaval with few scars - and likely profound memories of swapping their desks in their classroom to learning at their kitchen tables, vying for space along with the rest of the whānau.
We know from previous lockdowns that some children enjoy the lockdown environment to have time with their families and a break from the hectic pace of overfull schedules.
But there is so much we don't know when it comes to understanding how children are affected – or will be affected in the short and long term.
We have seen in the wake of previous lockdowns that mental health, and in particular anxiety and eating disorders have risen among our children, along with wait times for the help they desperately need.
And with Auckland bearing the brunt of this lockdown, it is difficult for many of us in level 2 to fully appreciate the burden of continued level 4 and 3 restrictions, for five weeks and counting.
We should be more concerned about the ongoing impact of these lockdowns on our children. The disruption to their regular lives barely makes a ripple amongst the focus on business disruption, border controls, vaccines, calls for testing and rule-breakers.
What about the children in sole child families for example, such as the little 4-year-old who has not had another child to play with face-to-face for more than a month, or children who are consumed with worry about whether the virus will overrun their bodies, or take away their adults?
Or the teens who are not only worrying about their studies, exams, NCEA credits, their future, but also juggling working at a supermarket because their families desperately need the money for the basics. Or the children who are reliant on whether or not their family qualifies for a foodbank parcel and what items might be in that parcel?
These are just some of the insights into what our children may be facing during this lockdown but, in truth, we don't really know as there is no national mechanism to capture this information.
Visibility of children and understanding the impacts of emergencies on them is not well done in New Zealand but it is never too late to reshift the focus.
Last year, Save the Children contributed to the Convention Monitoring Group Report "Children's Rights in the Covid-19 Response". In this report, we examined the evidence on how well children and their rights were catered for in the All of Government Response.
We found that children were reasonably absent from many of the decisions made that would directly impact their lives. It was also difficult to gain a truly accurate picture of the impact due to limited information.
A year on – and another lockdown later – it's difficult to see what has changed. We need a national mechanism to help us understand how children are affected and to be visible in the numbers related to the response.
In times of crisis, it's more important than ever to ensure our youngest members of society are seen and heard.
• Jacqui Southey is Save the Children's advocacy and research director.