DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Just weeks into the new school year and concerned parents are already asking: Is it time to take a closer look at what passes for online learning?
“I think everyone did the best they feel like we could have done with this: but, in that crisis mode, that panic mode, we weren’t able to pan out for the long term vision,” said Dallas mom Audrey Atkins, “for what that really means for the children who will more than likely be doing this for the entire school year.”
She says her son, Ronin Valdez — a student at a gifted and talented magnet — calls the online school experience this fall, “a dungeon.”
“I’m just sitting in my chair for eight hours a day, every day,” said Ronin. “If we had to do this for the rest of my life, we would probably all be zombies. I’m not kidding.”
And while that’s not a professional assessment, he’s not far off says his mom, who is also a licensed professional counselor.
“Thinning of the brain cortex, vision problems,” recited Atkins who says the research is clear — and so is her experience counseling local teens. “As a clinician, what I’m hearing from the students is: being more depressed, being more overwhelmed now with the addition of the online schooling and really shutting down.”
She says it is an issue that she is seeing across the socio-economic spectrum.
“So they already weren’t feeling great with being locked down and with the pandemic. But, then there as this shift I saw in August with the return of schooling where the children were telling me… we already felt bad and we didn’t like this; but, now feel like we were in captivity. So they’re reporting much higher levels of depression, anxiety and stress, really,” she said.
She says, in spite of being smart, her Ronin is also struggling to remain engaged.
“I’m not complaining about the teachers. The teachers are great, the schools are great, the principals are great, but the way we are learning now is the problem,” said Ronin, who will turn 11 in December.
The family says they initially opted for online learning out of concern for the staffers and to create more capacity for the students who, for whatever reason, could not manage the remote option. Still, this is not what they expected.
“We know that creativity and imagination are majorly impacted by screens,” said Atkins, “and if they are not allowed to have that time for their brains to wander and slow down between all of that.. you will start to see what we are seeing which is the children shutting down and not wanting to do anything at that point.”
She says that means even smart students will struggle. So, she’s encouraging districts to listen to the research, which says in the case of screen time, more isn’t necessarily more effective. And craft a plan to do better.
“As a school district, as leadership, as mental health professionals and as parents, if we all sort of banded together we could come up with a better model that we know isn’t actively doing harm to our children during the process,” she said.