At-home learning took a severe toll on adolescent development, say human development students

By Mia Brounstein
Assistant Editor

Students majoring in human development and family studies presented on the impact of online learning on adolescents at the Sha Smith Interprofessional Collaboration Conference on Feb. 11 in the Gentile Gallery.

Seniors Rachel Hessling, Rebecca Kinney and Rosie Piron conducted the presentation.

Kinney began by outlining the differences between the traditionally accepted forms of at-home education—such as online university and homeschooling—and online learning during COVID-19.

“It has been proven that children who spend excessive amounts of time on screens … can have higher rates of depression (and) lack of problem solving (in) their developing brain whereas the young adult brain has already developed,” Kinney said on the difference between online university schooling and at-home learning during COVID.

Hessling spoke next, dissecting the effect that at-home learning has had on students’ academic performance based on studies conducted across the world.

“In a general sense, mathematics students displayed a significant decrease in the use of skills,” Hessling said. “In reading, both high-achieving and low-achieving students had an increase in their performance.”

Hessling added that the exception to these study results were adolescents with dyslexia and ADHD.

Hessling summed up the studies by saying that most students, especially English Language Learners and adolescents with developmental disabilities, struggled with accessing resources while younger students struggled with a lack of supervision.

Piron continued the presentation by highlighting the effects of at-home learning on adolescents’ mental health.

She stated that, according to studies, the COVID pandemic caused a 2.3% increase in depression and anxiety among children aged 2 to 17. Piron added that the isolation caused by COVID produced an increase in suicidal thoughts, addictive disorders and loneliness leading to a lack of self-identity in adolescents.

“Social interaction is necessary for children and adolescents to develop self-identity,” Piron said. “Because they were not interacting with their peers, they lost the proper child development necessary to build a sense of belonging and self-esteem.”

Piron also noted that children in lower-income families experienced more negative effects of at-home learning than children in higher-income families.

Kinney closed the presentation by outlining ways that individuals in the helping professions can implement what has been learned about at-home learning from COVID. These ways included encouraging mental health in children and applying healthy skills developed during the pandemic to future unknown scenarios.

The presentation ended with a brief Q&A session.

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