TAMPA, Fla. — During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, data show an estimated 55 million children in the U.S. were impacted by changes to school formats. Many of those kids had to turn to virtual learning from home.
“Parents were trying to do their best, educators were trying to do their best. Everyone was really trying to make the best, most important decisions for their children,” said Dr. Kimberley Levitt, Clinical Assistant Professor for the Division of Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics at the University of Michigan and a Michigan Medicine Researcher.
A recently published study out of the University of Michigan collected data from 300 parents with children ages 5-10, ranging from kindergarten to fifth grade in Michigan during the pandemic last year to see how remote learning was impacting students.
“What are these kids experiencing?” asked Levitt.
Researchers looked into how virtual learning affected kids beyond just academics and tried to figure out how it impacted them emotionally and socially as well.
“What our study found is that children that were receiving remote education as compared to in-person education were having greater behavioral challenges, learning-related challenges,” said Levitt.
The report showed children who were in remote classes for a while were less motivated to learn, had more signs of hyperactivity and peer problems as they had to adjust to interactions with their classmates and teachers through screens.
Overall, school was a more challenging experience for students who did remote learning.
“Kids are so resilient and they do so wonderfully well but kids have had to navigate a lot of things sometimes in very short lifespans so far,” said Levitt.
The study also took a look at how students’ sleep was affected.
“Having impacts on sleep not only impact the child, we know that changes in sleep and poor sleep quality can affect academics. It can affect mood. It can affect behavior,” said Levitt.
The findings show kids were falling asleep later and were more likely to co-sleep with parents. Some families also reported their kids had more nightmares.
Researchers believe some students are still experiencing some of these challenges, even now as most schools are back to in-person classes.
“Some kids have bounced back and they’re doing great but some kids might have some residual struggles and so how do we support them?" asked Levitt.
The task is now to look at some of these negative consequences caused by remote learning and make decisions that will help these students navigate those challenges.
“We all want to move forward and that’s so important but how do we do it in a thoughtful way of what are some things these children have experienced and what are the right supports for them,” said Levitt.