Scientists warn about the harmful effects of distance learning on schoolchildren's mental health

BY & HA - Beautiful Youth & Healthy Aging

Canadian researchers conducted a study during the coronavirus pandemic to determine the impact of remote schooling on children's mental health. The average age of the schoolchildren who participated in the study was 11 years old.

The pandemic and related precautions have made a big difference in children's daily lives. Scientists are concerned about the dramatic increase in the amount of time children and adolescents spend in front of computer screens. In addition to online learning, children are spending their time playing games, watching TV, surfing the Internet, and video chatting. Many children spend almost all day in front of a screen.

The results of a study in the journal JAMA Network Open showed a clear link between anxiety disorder, depression, attention deficit disorder in older schoolchildren and the use of computer screens and smartphones in distance learning. Researchers previously hypothesized that communication of children via video link with friends would reduce the negative effects of online learning, but it had no effect.

In addition, the study found that in young children (ages 2-4), more frequent viewing of digital gadgets during the pandemic also increases levels of depression, behavioral problems, hyperactivity and anxiety . Interestingly, for children with autism, they didn't find a link between time spending in front of computer screens during the pandemic and an increased risk of such disorders. The researchers think this is because many children with autism have less contact with other children, and more contact with digital screens, regardless of the pandemic.

Electronic gadgets are not the only factor responsible for the worsening of mental health in children and adolescents. For many children, the fact of school closures, self-isolation, reduction of physical activity and social contacts cause additional stress. In addition, children's sleep patterns have been disrupted by the pandemic.

Other stressors for children are harmful Internet advertisements, negative news, and cyberbullying.

Researchers call for new policy interventions as well as evidence-informed social supports to promote healthy screen use among children and adolescents to improve their mental health both during and after the pandemic.

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