By Brahmani Tirumalaraju
After the COVID-19 breakout, the nation-wide implementation and procedures of online learning/school has witnessed both aspects of the coin since early 2020. The positive side being the leisure routines/schedules, the comfort of a home life, and the flexibility of multiple pursuits all from one place. However, on the other side, there exist the inevitable negatives, which constitute a major factor on why online school is either good or bad for students right now in this digital age.
Specifically, mental health issues and illnesses have been under the limelight and have caused massive discussions. Journalists Ada Wood and Lauren Mascarenhas from CNN wrote findings from the CDC showing that “Nearly 25% of parents whose children received virtual instruction or combined instruction reported worsened mental or emotional health in their children, compared to 16% of parents whose children received in-person instruction.”
Virtual schooling essentially permits kids to constantly confine themselves to the computer or iPad in front of them, which as a result decreases levels of enthusiasm and excitement towards academic endeavors or extracurricular activities, whereas in-person school allows a healthy combination of interaction between people and technology. Indeed, using technology for long hours can affect certain brain activity that can likely increase levels of stress, anxiety, or depression.
Another crucial aspect is how online school is contributing to the digital divide. Countless American families do not have access to high speed internet or technology in general in their communities, so the decision to implement virtual learning exacerbates the issue regarding access to education.
A Bloomberg report published in 2021 depicts that “18% of Hispanic teenagers say they do not have access to a home computer, compared to 11% of Black and 9% of White teenagers, which could end up increasing the learning gap by leading to disproportionate learning loss for Hispanic and Black students.” Moreover, According to the FCC, 97% of Americans in urban areas have access to a high-speed, fixed service. In rural areas, that number falls to 65% and on tribal lands to 60%.” These statistics boil down to a core fact: most Americans do not have the accessibility to technological advancements. We currently live in the “digital age,” yet many people can not take advantage of it.
Photo Credit: Jordan Vonderhaar/Texas Tribune
Referring back to virtual learning, the amount of children that do not have access to a quality education has increased over the years, further dividing the American population. To put this into perspective, NPR wrote that “in high-poverty schools that stayed remote for the majority of the 2020-21 school year, students missed the equivalent of 22 weeks of in-person math learning. That’s more than half of a traditional school year (roughly 36-40 weeks).”
When kids are missing out a large portion of school due to the remote setting, this discourages many young individuals to higher education and they lose access to essential resources that are meant to better their lives.
Speaking of better, one glimmer of hope lies in the fact that some schools are opening up and going back to in-person learning, which is definitely something to be excited about. Aside from the students, parents that stayed at home can have more peace of mind with the kids going back to school. Yet, the digital divide will persist as long as schools are primarily choosing to focus their curriculum around the usage of technological gadgets. To find more about free resources and how to help, check out the below links for further information: