With the sudden school closure due to the virus outbreak, institutions, educators, teachers, and students have switched to online learning. Whether it’s finding a math problem solver or essay writing expert, online education has opened doors to endless opportunities.
Virtual learning is now the ‘new normal,’ and everyone uses different literary tools and online learning platforms to continue their education and bridge the learning gap. Even though it has allowed the students and teachers to continue teaching and learning, studies show virtual learning has also negatively impacted students’ mental health.
This guide explains the impact of virtual learning on student’s mental health and what parents can do to help students cope with the changes. Before I dive into the negative effects, let’s quickly look at the benefits of online learning.
Top 5 Advantages of Virtual Learning
- High level of efficiency:
Virtual learning gives students access to a wide array of learning tools. From information podcasts to interesting study videos, teachers and students can experiment with different lesson planning and learning tools. Study shows students perform better when they move beyond traditional textbooks and use advanced learning tools.
- Easy accessibility for all:
Online education allows students to attend classes at anytime, anywhere. With no limitation of geographical boundaries, students and teachers can connect with peers and scholars from any part of the world and record lectures, share files, conduct presentations, and so on at the comfort of their homes.
- Minimum pocket pinch:
With millions of job losses, it has become a challenge for a single-earning member to run a household. Thankfully, online learning is much affordable than physical learning and reduces other costs like transportation and meals. As a plethora of information is readily available online, students don’t have to invest in textbooks.
- Higher attendance:
Since traditional classrooms shifted to virtual learning platforms, there is a low rate of absentees. Students can log in from home, attend classes, and go back to other activities without missing any lectures.
- Suitable for most learners:
While some prefer advanced learning styles like audio-video learning, others may choose traditional learning styles. Virtual learning offers students a wide range of options. Students can personalize study methods to fit every student’s needs.
3 Major Challenges Of Virtual Learning On Mental Health
- A sense of social isolation:
When you are studying alone with your computer, the silence in the room can get terrifying. You tend to miss the sound of your friends whispering, teachers scolding for not paying attention, and the silent laughter of the back-benchers on reading a comic book.
The virtual learning environment is entirely different from the classroom culture. There’s no scope for the students to interact and socialize. With no one to talk to, students get demotivated and lose interest in human interaction.
A study shows social isolation can cause more negative impacts on an individual’s mental health. Social interactions curtail stress and anxiety; social isolation or minimum social interaction can trigger anxiety and mental pressure.
- Increase in pressure, stress & anxiety:
With no social interaction, virtual study structure can negatively impact young individuals in several ways. For instance:
- They feel extreme pressure to keep up with the regular school work.
- Some struggle to concentrate and fail to deliver quality work independently, which again adds to the pressure.
- Introvert adolescents find it challenging to attend Zoom classes with others, again leading to anxieties.
- Without one-to-one study support, students fail to perform and stresses about poor grades.
- Zoom fatigue:
Excessive screen time can lead to visual learning fatigue or what most refer to as ‘Zoom fatigue.’ Continuously attending online lectures can wear out your brain and restrict it from processing information normally.
In social interactions, the brain processes a few non-verbal cues like facial expressions, body language, tone, and eye contact. But in virtual learning, a brain finds it difficult to pick up these cues, which makes it tougher for it to process information, causing mental fatigue.
Like students, many teachers share struggles trying to keep up with the changing learning structure. But unlike adults and educators, teenagers and adolescents fail to cope with the closed learning structure and often feel claustrophobic due to increased stress and anxieties.
Parents’ Role In Helping Teens Cope With The Pressure Of Virtual Learning
Helping children cope with the challenges of virtual learning is an arduous task. But there are ways parents can help their teens.
- Give a designated study area:
Just because your child is studying from home doesn’t mean s/he won’t have a designated study area. Find a quiet spot for study purposes. Make it wholly distraction-free and try to limit the use of excessive electronic devices while studying, just like a regular school day.
- Introduce healthy habits:
Teens and young adults are known for leading an unhealthy lifestyle – be it poor sleep routine or dietary habits. But with such extended exposure of your brain to virtual learning, it’s all the more necessary to follow a healthy pattern.
Strictly restrict your kids from staying up till late. Instead, encourage them to eat healthy, exercise, and wake up early. Following a healthy routine can boost your kid’s mood and give sufficient rest to the brain to perform well.
- Set an example to your kids:
Due to the pandemic, most parents are working from home. While working, it’s pretty normal to lose your cool or stress over an urgent deadline or meeting. However, don’t let your kids see you stressed. I know it will be tough to pull a calm face when running against the clock to create an urgent report, but you must.
Maintain a calm and positive attitude at home. Have healthy conversions with them and guide them with the best lessons. Remember, your kids – be it a child or a teen, look up to you for support and encouragement. A small positive act from your end can foster your child’s mental well-being.
The pandemic has brought our lives to a sudden standstill. Even though we are trying to cope with the ‘new normal,’ many of us, especially young individuals, struggle to keep up with the pace of change. Teens, young adults, and grownups fall prey to anxiety, depression, and other mental health challenges in social isolation. But nothing is impossible with support and encouragement. Parents must step in and support their kids through such trying times. Together we can get through this for a better tomorrow.