Concerns Prevail Over Impact of Online Education on Children’s Health

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Concerns Prevail Over Impact of Online Education on Children’s Health

Nehal Jain | May 24, 2020 12:58 hrs

Online lessons are helping educational institutions around India beat the Covid-19 lockdown to push ahead with the academic calendar. But the trend has raised many concerns among parents, educational experts and health experts.

While some have expressed alarm about the potential dangers of internet exposure for young children, others say they are scared the digital shift may alienate economically disadvantaged students who do not have access to the technology required to access digital lessons.

“Online education is doing more harm to the kids than good. I feel that educational institutes have started taking online classes just so that they can continue to charge fees from the students,” expressed Vijay Bajaj, a resident of Guwahati.  

Another parent, Raja Sarma, raised concerns in the same vein. “We should start thinking about the problems that students are facing today. Online teaching is not enough,” he said. 

On 15th April, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), which is engaged in humanitarian aid for young ones around the world, said, “Millions of children are at increased risk of harm as their lives move increasingly online during lockdown in the Covid-19 pandemic.” 

“Under the shadow of Covid-19, the lives of millions of children have temporarily shrunk to just their homes and their screens. We must help them navigate this new reality,” the statement quoted UNICEF executive director Henrietta Fore as saying. 

Speaking to G Plus about the impacts of online education on children’s health, Dr Navanil Barua, a neurosurgeon based in Guwahati said, “Children need to indulge in a lot of physical activities in order to stay healthy. The recent trend of online education and online gaming has been paving way for many diseases like obesity and heart diseases. If things continue this way for long, we can expect to see a spurt in occurrence of such diseases at an early age.”

He added that the current situation is also having an impact on the eyes of the children. 

“Kids these days are only exposing their eyes to unnatural lights, depriving them of natural lights. Spending maximum time in front of computer/phone also means using the eyes for near visions only which leads to less exercise of the eye muscles. If it continues this way, eye muscles may lose their functions,” he said. 

However, with coronavirus causing a threat to the entire world and no vaccine having been found, many opine that online education is the only way forward.

“We are adapting to online education out of compulsion, not out of choice. Online education is the way forward and we need to learn how to deal with it. Parents can choose devices that have minimum glare or print out the study materials for their kids, going forward,” Dr Rakesh Periwal, general physician, told G Plus. 

The issues related to online education are echoed by teachers as well who state that this process of learning has proved rather disadvantageous for students from underprivileged backgrounds.

Uttam Teron, the owner of Parijat Academy in Pamohi Village of Assam, imparts education to over 500 students for free. Speaking to G Plus about the trend of online education, he said, “Most of our students live in remote areas without good telephone connection. Laptops and internet connections are a distant dream for these children.”
Teron added, “These are the real challenges that hinder the process of online learning.”

However, he informed G Plus that the teachers of Parijat Academy have been sending notes to students over Whatsapp so that those who have access to smartphones can continue their studies. Students have also been urged to help their classmates who stay close by, by way of sharing notes.  

Schools and colleges across India have been shut since mid-March in order to enforce social distancing, which is considered the best bet for Covid-19 prevention in the absence of a vaccine or medicine. 

With a nationwide lockdown in place, physical classes are unlikely to resume in the coming days. To ensure the academic calendar doesn’t suffer much disruption on account of the lockdown, the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) has been constantly asking schools and colleges to teach students through online classes while making several platforms available to aid the exercise.

Owing to the prevailing circumstances, many health and educational institutes in the country have been studying the increased dependency on gadgets among adults and children amid the lockdown and monitoring its impact on mental health.

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