Is E-Schooling Affecting Your Child’s Health?

26 Aug 2020

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Clean, crisp uniform? Check. Books? Check. But instead of the school bus horn, it’s the ‘ping’ of notifications popping on screens. The ongoing pandemic has made schools take the online route for teaching. From first graders to college and university goers, all the students are slowly slipping into the groove of video-based classes. But this “new normal” form of education is concerning parents as it may compromise their children’s health. 

Educational experts, including those at UNESCO and UNICEF, have raised concerns about the online education trends [1]. Too much internet and screen exposure can affect the mental and physical health of the children and it may alienate economically disadvantaged students. Here’s everything you need to know about the online education trend. 

The Upside Of Online Learning

Given the pandemic, online education is a great way for kids to bond safely with their peers and mentors. It helps them academically as well as grow personally.

Additionally, it allows them to set up a customized learning environment, which helps them focus; and it also saves commuting time. Plus, instead of burying themselves under piles of books or waiting for the teacher to spare some time, they can simply rewind a video to see what they missed [6].

Apart from that, online schooling can also benefit students who suffer from social anxiety or those with minor learning disabilities. These children are usually extremely self-conscious and find it difficult to adjust in a classroom setting. Online learning helps them do things at their own pace, and bond with classmates while in their comfort zone. This may help them perform better in their academics [8].  

The effects of online education on students are particularly beneficial to older students and those who have good access to the appropriate technology. There is evidence to suggest that retention of learning material is around 25 to 60 percent in students when learning online, as opposed to around 10 percent with classroom learning. This is because online learning is simply more efficient and faster. This positive impact of e learning on students is thought to be pronounced because e learning requires significantly less time and allows for more flexibility.

The Challenges Around Online Learning

Although e-schooling may seem to be the best and the safest option, given the time and situation, there are some challenges to overcome. First, not every student in India has access to tech devices and a stable internet connection. Second, lack of computer literacy restricts both students and teachers of India to run and attend an online class efficiently [2]. Additionally, with so much exposure to the internet, children are at risk of being a victim of cybercrime.  

It is also worth noting that the effectiveness of online or e learning varies among different age groups, making this an important parameter to consider when measuring the impact of e learning on students. While older students and young adults tend to find many benefits in e learning, this doesn’t apply to many young children, as most therapists agree that children prosper in a more structured environment – aka the classroom. Exposure to distractions and loss of focus is not surprisingly one of the most commonly described impacts of online education on students under ten. 

Impact On Children’s Physical Health

Children need to be physically active to develop their bodies and minds. Excessive time spent sitting in front of a screen can lead to body aches, fatigue, headaches, etc. [3] In addition, the eye strain is, perhaps, the biggest concern of parents. According to WHO guidelines, spending more than an hour in front of a screen can adversely affect a child’s health and overall development. But with online classes, students are obligated to stare at their phone and laptop screens for hours together [9]. With education, entertainment and communication being limited to a screen, children’s ocular and overall health & development are at stake.

Dr. Sanjay Dhawan, Director, and Head, Ophthalmology, Max Healthcare says that continuous staring at screens for extended hours leads to eye muscle fatigue and weakness, and dry eyes. This can cause excessive tear evaporation. In addition, bad posture and improper seating can lead to neck and back problems [10]. 

To support the ocular health of your child, you can opt for lutein supplements, as the nutrient supports eye health, promotes cognitive health, and improves sleep. Setu produces lutein supplements in the form of yummy gummies. Setu Lutein Gummies are clinically tested, formulated using the patented LuteMAX technology, contain no added gelatin, and are side-effects free. Although the supplement is extremely safe, expert consultation is recommended.

Rising Mental Health Concerns

The inability to go and play with friends, feelings of isolation and the academic burden has taken a huge toll on the kids, mentally. New surveys are showing an increase in behavioral problems, disrupted sleeping patterns, and anger issues in children, due to excessive screen time. Teenagers have been complaining about academic anxiety, depression, performance pressure, and stress [4]. 

Self-motivation is another important measure to consider and this tends to suffer when children learn online. This impact of e learning on students may be felt across all age groups as the online environment doesn’t provide the same kind of competition or peer support to motivate students. The absence of direct interaction with teachers and lack of disciplined schedules also creates an environment that appears indifferent, rather than challenging or motivating. 

Another impact of online education on students is that they feel neglected or overlooked, thereby resulting in a loss of interest and focus. External factors in an online environment serve as a distraction rather than motivation. Some students may also feel abandoned and helpless as they are forced to fend for themselves without the frequent guidance, motivation, and support of teachers and peers. 

Growing Concerns About Communication Skill Development

When looking at the effects of online education on students, it’s impossible to overlook the impact on development of communication skills. Online communication can be helpful to college students and young adults, better preparing them for the workforce, but it is counterproductive in young children. Behavioral therapists and counselors worry about the impact of e learning on students in this age group as young children are still developing verbal and non-verbal communication skills at this stage. Due to the absence of meaningful face-to-face interactions with teachers and peers, children can the adverse impact of online education on students can have lasting effects, as they may struggle to work effectively in team settings.

Tips For Parents

Avoiding online classes is not an option, but you, as a parent, can help your child cope with stress and pressure. Here’s how:

  • Try and limit the screen time by introducing some physical activities at home. 
  • Monitor the kind of content consumed by your child online, it will help you reduce or manage their screen time better. 
  • Adjust the screen settings to ensure minimal strain is exerted on your child’s eyes. 
  • Opt for an anti-glare pair of glasses.
  • Consult your child’s doctor and give them supplements to support the eyes.
  • Make sure they take breaks.
  • Encourage them to exercise. Do it with them if need be. 
  • Prepare a schedule for school work and fun. 
  • Be kind to your kids.
  • Talk to them. 
  • Give them some space and let them interact with their friends.
  • Keep in touch with their teachers and fellow parents to learn about online safety. 

References:

    1. https://www.unicef.org/press-releases/children-increased-risk-harm-online-during-global-covid-19-pandemic
    2. https://e-student.org/disadvantages-of-e-learning/
    3. https://dc.ewu.edu/theses/386/
    4. https://www.thenational.ae/opinion/comment/coronavirus-has-taken-a-toll-on-the-mental-health-of-students-1.1032250
    5. https://www.accreditedschoolsonline.org/resources/student-stress/
    6. https://thefalcon.online/7753/opinions/upside-of-online-learning/
    7. http://bweducation.businessworld.in/article/Parents-And-Their-Response-To-Online-Learning-In-Time-Of-COVID-19-/26-04-2020-190236/
    8. https://www.asuprepdigital.org/can-students-with-social-anxiety-benefit-from-online-school/
    9. https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/24-04-2019-to-grow-up-healthy-children-need-to-sit-less-and-play-more
    10. https://www.indiatoday.in/mail-today/story/coronavirus-screen-time-learning-e-class-overdose-is-hurting-kids-1702322-2020-07-20

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