While some states are beginning to alleviate many of the COVID restrictions that have been in place as cases and death rates related to the virus are decreasing, many pieces of our normal, pre-COVID lives will still take time to come back to us. One of these things that many of us can likely expect to continue is online or virtual learning for our children of all ages. Some schools have already shifted to hybrid models of schooling with students going on campus a few days of the week and getting their education from home the remainder of the week. However, some schools and/or families will continue to opt for online learning at least through the Fall 2021 semester. While this may be the best choice for physical health and wellness for some families, it is important for all families, children, and educators to be aware of the potential harmful impacts to children as online education continues.
While participating in online learning, children are using their technological devices even more than usual because things like laptops, smart phones, and tablets are required in order to attend classes. Not only are they required for classes, but for communication with teachers, friends, family and more. We are fortunate to live in a world where there are these options to keep us safe during something like a pandemic, but there are risks involved in these privileges as well.
Many students are now having to use their personal or school emails more often than before, putting these students at risk of falling for phishing attacks. Because children have less exposure to cyber risks and the Internet in general, they are less likely to spot a suspicious email than an adult. Be sure to guide your children and monitor their emails as well in order to ensure they are safe.
False Educational Sites
The second half of 2020 saw a major increase in false online learning platforms. According to the Kasperksy cybersecurity firm, cyber threats disguised as legitimate educational sites July and December were up 60% over the first six months of the year. Students must access different sites like Canvas, Delta Math, and other legitimate online learning platforms in order to submit assignments, participate in classes, and more. Be sure to seek out the websites that your children need to use for schooling rather than clicking on a suspicious link from an unknown sender. This way, you can be sure to only access real school sources as opposed to falling for an online scammer’s tricks.
Mental health issues impact so many of us regularly and these challenges have plagued many people amidst the Coronavirus pandemic even more than usual. Not only is school a from-home portion of our lives now, but for many of us, all aspects of our lives are at home. This is draining for all of us regardless of age. The Mayo Clinic says that children struggle to communicate their feelings as clearly as adults do, and this makes it even more important to be aware of the risks that children are facing, not only when it comes to cybersecurity vulnerabilities, but the impacts of online education continuation on their mental health as well.
While learning from home, cyberbullying has unfortunately increased among school-aged children. Cyberbullying can be even worse than in-person teasing because the assailant is often anonymous. Not only that, but the victim of the cyber bullying has the misfortune of the Internet’s permanence, meaning, the child can go back and revisit the hurtful words said about them over and over again. These negative impacts are only expected to worsen during the Coronavirus pandemic due to isolation and increased screen time while at home. Cyberbullying is a major risk that overlaps both cybersecurity risks and mental health issues.
Face-to-Face vs. FaceTime
Children are not only at risk when it comes to their mental health because of virtual bullies, but they are also missing out on face-to-face interactions with friends and potential friends. Children have a harder time than adults when it comes to communicating their feelings, and many children, particularly only children without siblings, are feeling lonely during this unprecedented time of isolation. Video chats can be a good way for your children to stay in touch with friends so as to not feel so alone during this time. If your family and the families of your children’s friends are healthy and willing to mask up, meeting up outside and maintaining social distance can help your kids and their friends to feel happy, socially healthy, and connected. Staying safe from COVID is important, but there are also safe ways for your kids to stay connected with their friends.
Learning Difficulties Amplified by Lack of Attention
Gaining an effective comprehension from school is the main purpose of our education system. However, many of us have struggled with learning difficulties and the same is true for young students today. These students often require specialized attention from their teachers in order to gain the necessary insights to make course materials click for them. While struggling teachers are doing their best to continue to give these children attention to help them learn effectively, it can be hard for these helpful educators to know if the student is soaking up the information. Though it may take more time than in-person tutoring, encourage your children to ask questions, attend office hours offered by teachers for classes which they struggle in, and even seek out external tutors to further expose your child to the subject matter.