Virtual Learning and Children: Their Mental Health Matters Toocsudhbulletin October 11, 2020 0 COMMENTS
Katelynn Ruiz doing math homework from home. Photo by Melany Ruiz.
By Melany Ruiz, Assistant Opinion Editor
Every morning, I wake up to see my younger cousin at the kitchen table, twirling her hair and shaking her leg in desperation, with her headset on and her laptop keyboard clicking away as she types. Katelynn Ruiz is spending her fourth-grade year of school from the dining room table. Ruiz, like myself, is also an only child so we don’t really have anybody our age to play with, talk to, let alone interact with, besides our parents. Ruiz is stuck and is forced to put up with this new version of school all on her own.
To be quite honest, I feel like these teachers are leaving the children so much homework, on top of their Zoom classes when there is so much chaos surrounding 2020. Ruiz is on the computer for hours. Her very first class starts with math, followed by English, speech therapy, and even P.E.. On top of virtual classes, she has homework due after her last class at noon, and yes, she even has P.E. homework. I see her doing her push-ups from the living room.
“It’s hard for me. It’s hard to log in, with the meeting ID and the password. Sometimes [students] forget [to log onto Zoom],” Ruiz said.
I am so grateful that I can sit down with her, read those math word problems out loud, and read her favorite series“Judy Moody,” for her daily reading log. She doesn’t have her friends to learn alongside her. Unfortunately, only children also don’t have the advantage to play with someone else, Ruiz is forced to entertain herself on her own during her free time.
Ruiz has a speech impediment and displays early signs of dyslexia, which can cause her to take longer to finish her homework than other classmates. I can see her frustration after, she is glued to her computer for hours and is prohibited to do the things that she likes, such as watching Netflix, walking her dog, and even riding her bike. I have seen her cry because the whole day has passed by and she still has not completed her homework to go ride her bike.
For her English class, Ruiz was asked to write an “I Am” poem. Here are three sentences from the poem she wrote.
“I wonder when we will go back to school.
I hope we go back to school
I dream to go back to school”
They all mention school.
Eddie Oliva, a CSUDH student and parent, has a 7-year-old daughter, Layla, who is also an only child that is experiencing the first year of grade school within four walls.
“I feel Layla is losing from the school experience,” Oliva said. “These are some of the most important times of her life, and she’s missing out on a lot of experiences because of the way schools are being conducted now.”
Layla even said, “I don’t have school, it’s online. Not the same thing.”
Schools usually provide the materials that you need, such as, computers, internet, books, pencils, paper, etc. Ruiz was fortunate enough that her dad could buy her a computer and other materials, but I think about the kids who don’t have that same advantage.
One research from China showed that 22.6% of children reported depressive symptoms and 18.9% of children reported symptoms of anxiety on the related Emotional Disorders Screening. A second study done in the U.S found that 40.1% of parents reported observing signs of distress in their kids.
Seven months of the school year have been taken away from these children all due to a pandemic that can be difficult for them to understand. There is so much happening in the world. Of course, children may be unaware of these events, leaving their parents in possible distress from not being able to explain it to their kids. School was a place of distraction and engaging in learning for children, now that has sadly been taken away from them, they have no outlet to release their creativity. Having online school and homework on top of it all, I can only imagine the amount of stress and confusion they must be feeling.
As a college student, online school and work stress me out. I’ll tell you when my lifestyle shifted from going out all the time to staying at home, I was hit at an all-time low. Now imagine being a child, not fully grasping the understanding of why they are stuck at home? Why is school virtual? And why can’t I see my friends? Their mental health matters too.
Ruiz and Layla are stuck to put up with and figure out the education on their own. These elementary school level students don’t have phones, they can’t call or text their friends to “hang out.” They are set apart from the rest of the world and shut out from everything else going around them.
“Layla misses being in school surprisingly. Before virtual learning, she hated going to school,” Oliva said. “Now, she counts the days until she is able to go back and play with her friends.”