Study explores negative consequences of remote learning for kids

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Computer-based learning had negative effects on children’s behavior, social lives, and sleep when compared to in-person learning, according to a recent study.

The study was published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics and led by Kimberley Levitt, MD, a developmental behavioral pediatrician at University of Michigan Health C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and Michigan Medicine researcher.

“We wanted to explore differences in parent and child wellbeing at a time when some school districts had returned to in-person school, while others remained remote or hybrid,” Levitt said in a statement.

The study surveyed more than 300 English-speaking parents of school-age children on topics such as demographics, child school format, behavior, learning-related experiences, sleep, as well as parent stress and depression. Using multivariable linear and logistic regression analysis, researchers compared school formats with child and parent outcomes.

The study’s results showed that children in remote school exhibited more signs of hyperactivity, peer problems, and behavioral issues in comparison to in-person learners. In addition, researchers found that overall remote school was more challenging for kids. The study also showed that kids ages five to 10 who attended virtual school were more likely to go to sleep later and sleep with their parents at night.

“Providers should consider tailoring interventions for families who would benefit from a sleep hygiene reset,” said Levitt. “We know disrupted and poor sleep can affect all areas of health, including mood, behavior, and both physical and developmental growth as well as academic performance.”

According to the study, children whose families suffered material hardship and stressors during the pandemic were less likely to have behavioral difficulties than those without material hardship. Researchers found no association between parental stress or depression and their children’s school format.

According to researchers, based on the state of the pandemic and the little information scientists had during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the decision for schools to go remote made sense, however virtual learning did have consequences on the wellbeing of children.

“Our findings reinforce challenges families faced during the pandemic and suggest children in virtual school had more behavioral issues at home, social challenges with peers, and may have potentially been less motivated to learn,” said Levitt.

In response to these results, researchers hope schools will prioritize giving children the social-emotional health support they need to overcome behavioral difficulties, which have largely continued to persist even with the transition back to in-person learning, according to the study.