Due to the pandemic, online education has become the new norm and parents and young learners had to quickly adjust to this change. Our article, “Tips for Preparing Children for Online Learning,” offers useful advice to help parents and their children overcome obstacles and achieve success in this new mode of learning. Studies and experiences show that many students face significant challenges while studying independently each week, regardless of their location.
It is true that the long-term effects of online education are unknown as we continue to navigate this new era. However, current studies do shed light on how various types of children may respond to computer-based instruction at home. These studies can help inform parents and educators on how to best support their children’s learning during these unprecedented times.
What Online Education Leaves Behind
Distance learning during the pandemic has been challenging for many families and has left some students at a disadvantage. In addition to the difficulties you mentioned, it is important to recognize that online learning may not be accessible to all students due to various factors, such as socioeconomic status, language barriers or disabilities.
Therefore, it is crucial for schools and educators to take a compassionate and flexible approach when working with families and students affected by these challenges. It is also important to continue advocating for adequate resources and support to ensure equitable access to education for all children.
Due to inequalities in digital literacy and online access among students, teachers, and parents, some young learners experienced significant difficulties accessing their classes during remote learning. Many children did not have access to essential resources such as computers or Wi-Fi and were forced to share devices with family members. These discrepancies raise concern because they may exacerbate the achievement gap between affluent and economically disadvantaged pupils. It is important to take action against these issues by providing equitable support and resources to ensure every student has equal access to technology and education opportunities.
Due to the unequal distribution of digital literacy and online resources among students, teachers, and parents, certain young learners faced notable challenges when accessing their remote classes. A considerable number of children lacked crucial tools, like computers or Wi-Fi, and had to share devices with relatives. These differences are worrying because they may worsen the academic performance gap between wealthier and underprivileged students. It is crucial to take measures against these problems by giving fair assistance and resources that guarantee equal access to technology and educational chances for all pupils.
Some students may view these concerns as temporary. However, for others, the effects could persist even when they return to traditional classroom settings.
These issues are also evident among college students, with significant disparities observed in terms of race, ethnicity, economic status, ability, and other factors. Studies found that while 13% of college students delayed graduating due to the pandemic, low-income pupils were 55% more likely to defer graduation. There are concerns that these students may never have the chance to finish their studies.
Effects on Education
1. Conflicting concerns.
Numerous students, including my own children, opt to disable their cameras during online classes, resulting in a screen full of empty squares instead of the sight of smiling classmates.
2. Learning Assessment.
Despite the implementation of distance education, teachers’ attempts to monitor their students’ progress were at times unsuccessful. Despite the efforts made by parents and educators, it was often the case that those students who needed the most assistance in the classroom received the least amount of support.
3. Results on Emotional Well-Being
During the time when children were not physically attending school, there was a significant increase in mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. Individuals with pre-existing mental health conditions also experienced an exacerbation of symptoms.
Concerns were raised by many teachers, doctors, and parents regarding the heightened feelings of isolation and increased risk of suicide among students. As a result, they advocated for a return to traditional classroom settings.
Numerous educators expressed discontentment with the inadequacy of pixel-based student engagement. Additionally, many children were negatively impacted by reduced social contact and disconnection from their peers. Some students sought companionship and support in virtual communities and video games but found that these interactions only served to further deepen their feelings of isolation.
On the other hand, some students found solace in remote learning especially those who experienced social anxiety, bullying, or discrimination such as racism and transphobia. For these students, online education offered a more convenient option that allowed them to fully commit to their studies without distractions from extracurricular activities.
The Effects on Physical Health
With the option to study at home, young people tended to spend more time indoors in front of screens, which resulted in a reduction in physical education lessons and extracurricular sports activities. Consequently, studies have shown that there was a significant decrease in physical activity, with children who experienced domestic abuse experiencing weight gain, headaches, poor sleep, and difficulty keeping their eyes open.
It is important for parents to know that their children may not be the only ones experiencing negative health effects, such as weight gain, due to the pandemic. There has been a new term coined “covibesity” that specifically characterizes this condition.
Studies have shown that due to the stressful nature of living during a pandemic and being confined to homes, people around the globe, particularly children and adults, have seen an increase in weight gain. It was observed that students from low-income backgrounds, unfortunately, were the ones most impacted by this issue.
The percentage of children taking part in organized sports has declined to approximately 10%, as per the same survey. Due to lockdowns, some children were unable to leave their homes, which severely impacted their physical activity levels. Furthermore, research shows a reduction in the intake of healthy grains, fruits, and vegetables, whilst processed, sugary, and salty foods are being consumed more frequently.
Additionally, the pandemic led to an increase in the number of children suffering from food insecurity. Pre-pandemic estimates indicated that about 12% of children struggled with food insecurity, whereas post-pandemic projections indicate that this number has risen to nearly 38%. Although many schools continued to offer free or discounted meals to students in need, the closures meant that numerous children went hungry.
According to the same survey, there has been a decrease in the percentage of children participating in organized sports, with only around 10% currently doing so. This decline can be attributed to lockdowns that left some children confined to their homes, resulting in limited physical activity levels. Furthermore, studies indicate that healthy food consumption, such as grains, fruits, and vegetables, have decreased while processed, sugary, and salty foods are being consumed at higher rates.
The COVID-19 pandemic also caused an increase in the number of children suffering from food insecurity. Prior to the pandemic, it was estimated that approximately 12% of children were facing food insecurity, but post-pandemic projections show this number has surged to almost 38%. Although schools tried to provide free or low-cost meals to students in need, many children still experienced hunger due to the closures.
Back to Face to Face School
Efforts are being made to focus on students who may have fallen behind during their online education. Parents and students are both concerned about what can be done to help children catch up. It’s crucial to offer support in the areas of education, mental health, and financial security. As a parent, it’s important to assess your child’s overall wellbeing to identify any struggles they may be having.
Many school districts offer various resources, such as food assistance, summer programs, tutoring, counseling (or referrals to available resources), and feeding programs. If you need help finding resources for your child, don’t hesitate to reach out to your local school for assistance.
While research on how online learning during the pandemic has impacted children may be disheartening, it’s important to keep a positive outlook and appreciate what we have. Choosing to stay home was the safest decision for students, their families, and communities.
As schools are finally able to resume in-person classes for most of the country, we should celebrate every success our children achieve in terms of new knowledge learned, resilience against setbacks, and advancements in maturity.