American Children and Online Schooling: The Good and the Bad

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The COVID-19 pandemic has changed almost everyone’s lives in some way. That includes children, teenagers, and college-age students who have felt a bit ‘up in the air’ about school for over six months. 

Of course, this hasn’t just been a national issue. During the height of the pandemic, schools closed in 191 countries around the globe in an effort to keep students safe. From France to Germany, most countries have taken precautions to protect their citizens of all ages. Many schools developed an online/remote learning platform to finish out the year. 

Now, with school starting up again, parents and teachers alike are wondering if it’s safe to send kids back to school in-person. Children and teens have always been said to be at a lower risk of contracting the disease. The death rate for those ages 15-24 is just 0.121%, compared to individuals over the age of 85, with a COVID death rate of over 33%. 

Many schools across the country have opted for remote learning, including many colleges. Others are utilizing a hybrid platform. However, some have returned to in-person learning with precautions in place, such as social distancing and mask-wearing. 

With many parents and teachers still concerned about safety, remote learning is one of the safest options. But, is it truly what’s best for kids when it comes to their education? What are the pros and cons, and what could the lasting effects truly be?

What are the Benefits? 

The biggest benefit of online learning during this pandemic is that it’s the safest way to keep your children healthy. But, if you’re still on the fence over whether it’s the right option for the children in your life, consider some of the other “pros” that can benefit them: 

  • They can communicate directly with their teacher via video chat or email.
  • There are fewer distractions from other students.
  • The learning environment at home is customizable.
  • It increases self-discipline.

Online learning can also provide a bit of flexibility, depending on your child’s school policy. It is an adjustment, of course, but if you have the right mindset and encourage that in your child, they can end up learning just as much from home as they could in the classroom. 

Are There Any Long-Term Risks? 

While there are many “pros” to online learning, there are some potential drawbacks to keep in mind for both students and teachers. Whether children are attending classes via Zoom or another digital platform, including chatrooms, cyberbullying can be a huge risk. Unfortunately, 81% of kids think it’s easier to get away with cyberbullying than it is to pick on someone in person. That number may start to climb as more students go to remote learning options. The signs of cyberbullying aren’t always easy to see, even for teachers. But, they can include different types of harassment such as: 

  • Exclusion
  • Trickery
  • Outing
  • Negative talk

For teachers, another potential issue is recognizing that everyone learns differently. Those who are hands-on learners or those who have trouble paying attention might not take to online schooling so easily. Finding ways to keep kids engaged online for long periods of time may be challenging. 

Finally, one of the riskiest long-term effects that online schooling could have is how it will impact the mental health of students. Children are especially susceptible to stress during times of instability. They may not know how to fully process what’s going on or express themselves. Additionally, they are forced to spend time away from their friends, with limited social interaction. While we still don’t have a ton of data and research yet, we will undoubtedly see numbers at some point reflecting the mental health impact of COVID-19 on kids and teens, and digital schooling will certainly have been a factor. 

Getting Remote Learning Right

Remote learning only works if everyone involved is putting forth maximum effort. For teachers and administrators, that includes everything from understanding technological regulations to having the right digital skills to promote a remote education

For parents, fostering success for your child’s online schooling means encouraging them to treat it as they would any other school day. That includes everything from waking up at the same time to having a designated space within your home that is meant for learning during the day.

It’s also important to monitor your child’s screen time throughout the day. You don’t want them turning into a digital zombie

While they may need to be on their computers or tablets for school, try to encourage them to get outside or take breaks away from their screens once the school day is done. If you’re working or away from home during the day, that isn’t always easy. One option is to set up parental controls on your child’s mobile device or computer. This will allow you to see everything they’re doing online, so you will know when they’re using their devices for school or anything else. 

Finally, for students, online schooling is what you make of it. It’s important to show up and get involved every day, understanding that this is not a permanent problem. At some point, life will return to some sense of normalcy. In the meantime, however, students, parents, and teachers will all get more out of online schooling with a little bit of effort and patience.

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