Most students will return to regular, in-person classes in the fall of 2021 after missing nearly a full school year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, many parents are curious as to how their children have adjusted to distance and/or hybrid education.
Across the country (and the world), most students spend at least some time every week studying independently. We know from studies and anecdotal accounts that many children must overcome serious obstacles.
The long-term effects of online education are unknown at this time. However, current studies provide clues as to how different types of children might respond to home-based computer instruction.
What Online Education Leaves Behind
It’s crucial to keep in mind the incredible difficulties that many distance learners encounter, such as illness in the family (and in some cases, the death of a loved one), unemployment, financial hardship, chronic stress and uncertainty, a lack of routine, and isolation.
Everybody—schools, instructors, parents, and students—had to figure out how to “do” school while in quarantine. Consequently, it is encouraging when students are able to maintain their academic performance despite the challenges of a pandemic.
However, many children and their families suffer greatly from distance education. For the sake of their children’s education, many parents have given up their careers to become full-time educators. The parents of some of the other families had to leave their children at home alone while they went to work. Many kids had trouble keeping up with the rigors of online learning, even those whose parents were able to stay at home with them.
Some youngsters had a hard time even getting online to class because of disparities in digital literacy and online access among students, teachers, and parents.
Many children lacked access to modern conveniences such as Wi-Fi or computers or had to share a gadget with siblings or other family members. The differences are a source of concern because they may widen the achievement gap between wealthy and poor pupils.
Distance education presented specific difficulties for students from traditionally underserved groups, those with learning disabilities, bilingual learners, and those with mental health concerns. Some families lacked the resources necessary to provide their children with adequate academic support. Families often relied on their older children to help out around the house and in the workforce.
Some students, especially those who study best when given freedom and autonomy, have flourished in online environments. The numbers show that many people have had trouble and been left behind. Many children who struggled with distance education reported experiencing emotional and physical distress due to their experience.
These may be transitory worries for some students. Others may be affected even when they return to traditional educational settings.
These effects appear to extend all the way to college students, with significant gaps being seen by race/ethnicity/economic status/ability/other. Researchers discovered that while 13% of college students were delaying graduation because of the epidemic, low-income students were 55% more likely to make this change. Some fear that these students will never get the opportunity to complete their degrees.
Effects on Education
Many students (including my own children) choose to turn off their cameras, so rather than seeing the smiling smiles of their peers, everyone was staring at a sea of blank squares.
Teachers’ efforts to keep tabs on their students’ progress, despite the advent of distance education, were sometimes futile. Despite attempts by educators and parents, students who required the most help in the classroom were often the ones who received the least.
Results on Emotional Well-Being
While children were not in school, the prevalence of mental health problems like depression, anxiety, and eating disorders increased dramatically. Many people also saw an intensification of symptoms from previous mental health disorders.
Many teachers, doctors, and parents voiced concerns about the rise in students’ feelings of isolation and suicide risk and advocated for a return to traditional classroom settings.
Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 if you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts. Make the call to emergency services if you or a loved one is in urgent danger.
The ineffectiveness of pixel-based student engagement was bemoaned by many educators. Many children also suffer from diminished social contact and a disconnection from their peer group. Many students turned to online communities and video games in search of friendship and support, only to discover that these activities did little more than reinforce their isolation.
However, remote learning was a comfort for several students, including those who suffered from social anxiety, bullying, or discrimination (including racism and transphobia). Many of these students were able to put aside extracurricular activities and devote themselves fully to their studies because of the convenience of online education.
The Effects on Physical Health
When youngsters were given the option to study at home, they inevitably spent more time inside, in front of screens. Lessons in physical education and extracurricular sports were cut back significantly.
Studies demonstrate that this change led to significant decreases in physical activity. Children who experienced domestic abuse gained weight, developed headaches, slept poorly, and had difficulties keeping their eyes open.
Know that your child is not alone if they have had negative health effects, such as weight gain, because of the pandemic. The term “covibesity” was created specifically to characterize this condition.
Researchers observed that due to the stress of living during a pandemic and being confined to their homes, many children and adults around the world put on weight. Students from low-income backgrounds performed the worst, yet again.
According to the same survey, the percentage of children participating in organized sports has dropped to around 10%. Some children were essentially trapped inside their houses because of the lockdown. According to studies, the consumption of healthy grains, fruits, and vegetables has decreased, while processed, sugary, and salty foods have increased.
There were also many starving children. In reality, pre-pandemic rates of food insecurity among children were roughly 12%, but by post-pandemic estimates, that number had risen to around 38%. Many school districts did their best to keep providing free and reduced-price meals to students in need, but many youngsters went hungry as a result of the school closures.
The interruption of routine healthcare during the pandemic is also a concern for doctors. Due to concerns about contracting COVID-19, some parents have kept their children away from their doctor’s office and their regularly scheduled vaccinations. Students who were not in school did not have access to school nurses or were forced to maintain a current vaccination schedule.
Back to Face to face School
Fortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic is nearing its end thanks to quarantine measures and rising immunization rates. This fall, the vast majority of school districts will continue with their regular school schedules. The current priority for educators is ensuring a secure resumption of classes.
Students who may have slipped between the gaps during their time in online education are also a potential focus of these efforts. Students and parents alike are concerned about how children can get back on track. It’s crucial to provide aid in the areas of education, mental health, and economic security. If you’re a parent, it’s important to take stock of your kid’s life and health to see where they could be struggling.
Numerous districts provide food assistance, as well as summer school programs, tutoring, counseling (or making connections to accessible resources), and feeding programs. If you need help finding resources for your child, don’t hesitate to contact the school in your area.
Though studies on how well children fared with online classes during the epidemic may make you feel down, remember that there is still a lot to be hopeful about and grateful for. It was decided that staying home was the safest option for students, their families, and their communities.
They have finally seen the fruits of their labors as the COVID-19 pandemic has ended and school has resumed for most of the country. Therefore, we should celebrate any and all of their successes in knowledge learned, resistance to defeat, and growth in maturity.