One of the most joyful noises I’ve heard for a while was the sound of my wee grand-daughter Eva giggling as we played in the heavy snow on Saturday afternoon.

I posted a photo on Facebook of her, me and an odd-shaped snowman, and judging by the “likes” and comments, many people shared in our simple pleasure.

Accompanying the pic, I’d deliberately written “Kids are happy outdoors.”

The pandemic lockdown, it seems to me, is imposing shocking restrictions on our children right through the various ages to an extent that is building up serious problems for the well-being of a whole generation, now and in the future.

Thankfully, we’re beginning to see some coverage of this; not-so-thankfully, there doesn’t seem to be a strategy by those in authority to acknowledge and deal with it.

How many times in recent years have we bemoaned the way children spend far too much time on their devices or computers and not enough enjoying physical activity and fresh air.

Now, we’re forcing them to do their schoolwork on their screens, almost isolated at home, and telling them they are limited in the time they can go out and get exercise.

And it’s not just the physical aspect; they’re not enjoying social aspects of life that help for our young people become the better, rounded adults we all hope they’ll be.

I loved playing football, not just the game, but for the crack I had with others, many of whom became friends for life.

As a former youth football coach, I saw the same in a lot of young players; indeed many of them came out of their shells and became more confident.

In fact, the benefits of social contact are considered so healthy and so important that if we notice someone quiet and withdrawn we consider it a sign there’s something wrong and try to address it.

My youngest, David, is 19 and began studying at university in Liverpool last September, and had barely settled into halls (rent paid conveniently for the university) when he was informed that all his lectures would be online.

He did make friends in Liverpool, but has never been to campus, and when he came home for Christmas the strict lockdown means he’s still at home in Enniskillen and sits in his room doing online learning on his laptop.

Whether it’s David not having the full university experience or Eva, at 14 months never having had the company of other toddlers, these are strange times for our family.

We’re among the lucky ones, we’re managing the situation well. It’s clear that many are not.

The Irish News reported this week on the mounting concerns over the long-term impact of the pandemic on children, with a catastrophic increase in mental health problems.

And that a group of British doctors and charities wants a commission to tackle the pandemic’s “devastating impact on children".

Dr. Maggie McGurgan, a member of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, spoke in particular about the massive increase in referrals for eating disorders in teenagers, but said the real problem was even worse because many issues aren’t being picked up because kids are never seen by teachers or sports coaches. People who would normally have the sensitivity to realise something not quite right.

The longer-term effects on a whole generation of young people’s physical and mental health is something which needs urgently addressed.

So, what is being done to get our kids back to some sort of normality; back to school and back to playing sport?

And, yes, it still needs to be in a very controlled environment. But, my perception is that the only answer by the Stormont decision-makers is to keep the lid tightly shut on everything.

Meanwhile in Scotland, a “keep kids active” campaign has seen rules allow up to 13 children of primary school age continue to gather outdoors under the supervision of two adults.

If Eva’s giggles did my heart good, the sound of the Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Michael McBride firmly dampening any hope of an end to restrictions last week made it sink.

With the excellent progress being made on the vaccination process and hopes that the R rate going down, albeit a little, optimism was rising slightly.

Only to be firmly put back in its box by Doctor Lockdown, whose doleful expression reminded me of Dad’s Army Scottish undertaker, Private Frazer’s “we’re doomed”.

But in his Sunday Independent opinion on the wider issue, Colm O’Rourke rightly said: “Leadership is about giving hope, not plunging people into darkness and uncertainty.”

Today, we should hear what Stormont’s plans are for the expiry of the current restrictions on March 5.

After failing us with the absence of a proper strategy for a year, not to mention decisions which only made things worse, is it too much to expect them to think out of the box now?

The BBC reported that the Public Health Agency had said in a briefing that schools are not a major source of transmission of the virus; it does occur, but on a small scale.

And there’s now a legal challenge to the Department of Health claiming no evidence has been produced to show kids playing outdoor sport contributes to the spread of Covid.

Overall, information about the question of how and where the infection is being transferred during lockdown isn’t shared enough with the public, and surely it would be helpful to do so and advise us where the risks are?

As regards school, the problem is activity around getting the children to and from school, whether parents congregating at the gate or pupils on buses.

I recall late last year when there was a brief return to school, coming out of the Erneside shopping centre and being met by a group of about a dozen kids in school uniform, none with masks and all mingling closely and far too near adults.

And it also makes little sense to me when school buses are crammed with children who then have to social distance only when they go through the school door. We cannot expect bus drivers to police this.

And, of course, the concerns of teachers must be addressed. Should they, for example, be given priority in the vaccination programme?

Can these areas of concern not be addressed rather than a blanket ban on everyone.

Look, I’m not suggesting we embark on a reckless policy of just throwing everything open again.

But, the continued closure of schools could be creating more problems than it solves. The mess over exams was bad enough, but what sort of message are we sending to our children that we don’t care enough about their wellbeing to get this sorted.

And there doesn’t seem any logical reason to me that sports clubs cannot function in a structured way, the way they had been in fact, with organised social distancing of people arriving and leaving, proper cleaning of equipment and the benefits of fresh air. People were following the rules. We’re told that outdoor transmission of Covid is negligible.

And while I’m on it, grass roots sport in general is being sadly missed; whether young players or older people missing out on their golf. Again, the social impact is so important.

I know there are many other problems for society, caused by lockdown; business, hospitality, waiting lists for important health operations, the mental health of the population at large and so on.

But this week, I’m making a plea for society to consider the damage the management of this pandemic is doing to our children, because we should seriously consider what sort of “new normal” a damaged generation will face when this is over.