Coronavirus-news December 18, 2020
Online classes taking a toll on mental health of children, says parents & experts
As classes are shifted to online platforms for past nine months, parents and experts are worried that this is taking a toll on mental health of young children, most of whom are already addicted to gadgets. Noticeable behavioral changes in children is indeed a cause of concern.
For ten-year-old Parvathi (name changed), attending online classes has not been great, claims her parents. A student of class 5, Parvathi who was an extrovert and loved to mingle with her peers is now mostly brooding and not willing to even step outdoors to play. She spends most of her time not just on screen learning, but playing games online or watching TV. Her worried parents are going to consult her to a counselor whom they believe can help her. Parvathi’s is unfortunately not an isolated incident. For lakhs of children who have been undertaking online classes, the past nine months have taken a toll over their mental health in many ways.
What worries most parents are whether their child is actually learning through online classes. As most of them are sitting inside the comfort of their living rooms or bedrooms, they tend to take online sessions lightly. Some of them are engaged in other activities while classes are on. Many others do not show any interest. Since classes are done through screen, teachers have their limitations too.
Seema Lal, co-founder of parent support group ‘TogetherWeCan’ has been a strong advocate of social and emotional learning in children and adults. She says now the topic is urgent and important than ever before. “Pandemic and hurried shift to online teaching has surely taken a toll on not just physical, but mental health of students, teachers and parents. Excessive and unsupervised use of screen time has increased strain on eyes and body. It has caused rampant addictions, aggressive behaviors, anxiety, attention and concentration issues, depression and in some cases death by suicide”, says Seema.
She claims that online classes are not education, but enforced schooling. “We need to slow down. We have to be less obsessed with children being constantly engaged or entertained. This must be an opportunity to mend our ways and invest facilitating self-learning skills in students, supporting parents and following universal designs for learning”, adds Seema.
K Bhavani, counselor with an NGO in Kochi says, “Interaction with peer groups is important for children. They learn many life skills, like how to adjust with others, give and take policy and so on. When they are denied of all this, they naturally become introvert and selfish. They are unable to cope up with life threatening situations in the long run”.
Worried parents seek solutions
Dr Devika Kumar, whose five-year-old daughter is attending online classes says that past few months have been a cause of worry to her. “I feel her childhood is being deprived. She should be spending time with friends, learning new things and having a good time playing. But not only are these happening, she is slowly getting addicted to gadgets which is a cause for worry”, she says.
Mohammad Aslam’s seven-year-old son is taking online classes. But he makes sure his son has some interaction with peers. So he is attending tuitions too. “I do not want to burden my son with academics which I have made it clear to his teachers too. But the point of sending him for tuitions is that he can be with other children of his age, especially during these unprecedented times. We do not know how long classes are going to be online. I’am worried that he is spending too much time on gadgets”, he says.
Some schools across India have opened gates to students, but most remain shut. There is no specification to when classes would begin. It is high time parents, especially those who are working and away from their child most of the day, keeps a tab about what is happening with their child’s mental health during these tough times.
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