By Deslyn Taylor, NCWQ Education Advisor
Education and the Digital Divide
“Many parents are worried the disruptions of COVID lockdowns and school closures may affect their children’s mental health and development.”
Impact of Social Isolation may differ depending on the child’s situation. It can be exacerbated by:-
- Living in medium or high density with limited access to outdoor play space
- Only children must rely on their parents to play and help with school tasks
- Not all students had access to computers, webcams, microphones and a fast Internet connection. All of these are needed to facilitate online learning and maintain social contact with friends
- Situations where English was a second language and online learning materials were in English could increase stress
- Children and parents with Hearing or other disabilities (online material not designed to cater to these students.)
- Practical activities e.g. sport cannot be done during lockdowns and these are very important social activities for many children
“In June 2020, in the context of COVID-19, a group of researchers in the UK reviewed 80 studies to find how social isolation and loneliness could impact the mental health of previously healthy children. They found social isolation increased the risk of depression and possibly anxiety, and these effects could last several years.”
This would then have an ongoing effect on the child’s state of mind and ability to concentrate on education.
Another study by OECD
“The COVID‑19 pandemic is harming health, social and material well-being of children worldwide, with the poorest children, including homeless children and children in detention, hit hardest. School closures, social distancing and confinement increase the risk of poor nutrition among children, their exposure to domestic violence, increase their anxiety and stress, and reduce access to vital family and care services. Widespread digitalisation mitigates the education loss caused by school-closures, but the poorest children are least likely to live in good home-learning environments with internet connection. Furthermore, increased unsupervised on-line internet use has magnified issues around sexual exploitation and cyber-bullying.”
If a child is malnourished, stressed, lonely and socially isolated they cannot learn successfully.
Loneliness and isolation is particularly difficult for children and leads to anxiety and depression which could last for years. This would have an ongoing effect on the child’s state of mind and ability to concentrate on education. The most successful approach to easing this problem is to keep schools open and operating providing a safe and supportive environment and encouraging children’s social development and mental well being.
The following recommendation was made to a submission to the Inquiry into Social Isolation in Queensland, the Community Support and Services Committee of the Queensland Parliament
Government puts procedures in place to keep schools open if possible:-
- Ensure all people working in schools are vaccinated
- Ensure all students are vaccinated if possible
- Ensure Parents are given an introduction on how their children will work online so that they understand and are in a position to support if this becomes necessary
- Ensure parents/guardians are aware of online dangers including sexual exploitation and cyber-bullying and what they can do to help.
Deslyn Taylor (Education Advisor Qld)
M Ed.(QUT), B.A. (U.Q); Grad. Dip. Comp.Ed. (QUT)
photo credit: https://theconversation.com/are-the-kids-alright-social-isolation-can-take-a-toll-but-play-can-help-146023
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