Remote schooling puts pressure on parents and their kids, CDC survey suggests

Parents whose children received virtual instruction were more likely to report poorer well-being for themselves and their children, a federal government survey found.

Parents were more likely to report that they were emotionally distressed, concerned about job security, and struggling to balance work and childcare if their children were learning virtually, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey. Released Thursday.

Some of the parents also reported that their children’s mental and emotional health had worsened, while their physical activity had decreased.

The findings add to a growing body of evidence about the harms caused by keeping children out of the classroom. Citing the benefits of in-person learning, the federal government and other officials have called for schools to reopen, although some teachers and parents harbor safety concerns.

The evidence so far suggests that Covid-19 transmission in schools is minimal if recommended safety precautions are followed. Clusters of cases have occurred when there are lapses in security protocols.

The CDC is expected to release an update tomorrow on its physical distance guide for schools.

“Children who do not receive in-person instruction and their parents may experience an increased risk of negative mental, emotional or physical health outcomes,” the report said. “Community-wide actions to reduce the incidence of Covid-19 and support mitigation strategies in schools are vitally important to support the return of students to in-person learning.”

Schools across the country closed their classrooms a year ago to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. Many have yet to reopen, while others offer a combination of face-to-face and remote learning to reduce the number of students in their buildings and reduce the risk of transmission.

The CDC conducted the survey from October 8 to November 13. The researchers surveyed 1,290 adults with a 5 to 12-year-old child enrolled in a public or private school. Nearly 31% of the children attended school in person, the parents said, while about 46% were completely remote and 23% received a combination of instruction.

Parents with children in public schools more frequently reported that their children received virtual instruction, compared to parents with children in private schools. Black, Hispanic, and other non-white parents said their children were virtually learning more often than white parents.

One year after the coronavirus pandemic, many schools are only partially open for fear that they could fuel the spread of the virus. Experts explain what the real risks are of spreading Covid-19 in schools and how proper controls can change that equation. Illustration: Preston Jessee for The Wall Street Journal

The survey indicated that the pandemic has affected the well-being of parents and school-age children.

More than 46% of the parents surveyed reported experiencing emotional distress and more than 38% said they lost some amount of work. More than 14% of parents with children learning remotely reported problems balancing work and childcare, compared with just over 8% of parents with children taking classes in person.

Overall, parents reported that more than 12% of children had poorer physical health and 22% of children had poorer mental and emotional health, regardless of learning mode. Just over half of all parents said their children had decreased physical activity.

“This survey really shows us what pediatricians have been seeing in their practices across the country, which is that the pandemic and e-learning have put enormous pressure on families,” said Lee Savio Beers, president of the American Academy. of Pediatrics and Medical Director. Community Health and Advocacy at Children’s National Hospital.

“Safe, in-person learning should be our top priority for children at this time,” added Dr. Beers.

More than half, 54%, of parents whose children were learning remotely reported a lot or a moderate amount of emotional distress.

About a quarter of parents with children learning remotely reported that their children’s mental and emotional health worsened, compared to about 16% of parents whose children were learning in person.

About 63% of parents with children who are virtual learners also said their children exercised less, while parents with children who learn in person reported that their children had reduced physical activity about 30% of the time.

Parents with children learning in hybrid models also reported less physical activity, time spent outdoors and with friends, and poorer mental and emotional health among their children more often than parents with children who are fully in-person learners.

However, those parents were less likely to report that their children had decreased physical activity or time spent outdoors than were parents whose children were completely estranged.

Write to Brianna Abbott at [email protected]

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