The year 2020 has unquestionably been the most bizarre in modern history. While adults have been prime targets of COVID-19, younger generations are increasingly more susceptible. Three months before the school year ended, schools were shut down. Graduation ceremonies were canceled or broadcast virtually.
There are benefits to group learning that technology cannot subplant. We develop socialization skills from our interaction with others during childhood. The reactions we receive as result of things we say and do help us later in life. Those visual clues are missing in a remote learning environment. Children may grow up educated but aloof, introverts, or unable to express empathy.
Summer school students were immersed in virtual classes, as technology companies scrambled to improve security for exponential usage of new subscribers. As school districts prepare for the current school year, education is in the forefront of COVID-19 concerns. You may have in-person classes at least some days while others schools teach entirely online.
With an emphasis on safety and technology, back-to-school gear requires rethinking this year. Pens, pencils, backpack and new clothes are subject to revision. Schools provide some personal protective equipment (PPE). This varies from one educational district to the next. Some children may receive one disposable mask per day. Teachers or special-needs children might also receive a reusable mask and/or face shield. In a survey by EdWeek Research Center 44% of Elementary teachers report their schools are equipping each student with a mobile learning device. Middle School and High School are 69% and 72% respectively.
“About 8.6 million children, K-12 age, do not have the necessary equipment at home to participate in online learning,” says Kenneth Dodge, a professor who studies early childhood development. “That’s about 1 in 6 children in America.”
If you are a parent, find out if your child’s school will provide laptop computer or tablets and what are the requirements. You may need to pay for WiFi routers, broadband service, and install software. Live video requires high-speed internet. The industry defines high speed as 25 Mbps (Megabits per second) download. This assumes a single device. You can check your Internet speed here. If you have a WiFi device for the video and a separate one for typing reports or doing research, the internet speed is divided among devices. Smartphones on the network also consume bandwidth.
|500 Mbps||5+||Very Fast|
Traditional web browsing involves more downloading (page viewing) than uploading (sending files). So carriers often cut upload speed by up to 90 percent of download. Bidirectional video chats require fast upload and download speeds. Though some areas offer discounts for basic 25 Mbps service (and others offer much less), this will be inadequate in most multi-device households. So you can incur a monthly upgrade expense for higher bandwidth. This forces two controversial questions:
- Should young children have Internet-connected devices?
- Who will supervise children with such devices?
- What effects do lack of socialization have on child development?
It is common knowledge that the Internet has many bad areas into which children can wander. Even with a remote teacher on screen, it is often possible to access web pages in the background. It is essentially like having a school campus with no perimeter fence. After class, the Worldwide Web is open territory during homework. Frightening as it sounds, there is some good news. Apple iPads include parental controls. The inherent weakness is, that many parents ask their children to teach them how to enable settings. It is best, as a parent, to familiarize yourself with the controls and passwords.
With school drop-offs, many parents are adding to bread-winning responsibilities the education role, which also includes administering Internet technology.
One single parent set up a webcam to keep an eye on her son while at work. She could see him at his desk with the computer on her smartphone. Seems like a good idea. But then his grades began slipping. Teachers said he was not submitting assignments. Merely sitting in front of a computer without physical supervision is not the same as studying.
Children Not Immune to Coronavirus
Newborns can become infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 during childbirth or by exposure to sick caregivers after delivery. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), among nearly 150,000 cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. between February 12 and April 2, only about 2,500, or 1.7%, were in children.
According to the CDC, nearly 600 children and adolescents were admitted to U.S. hospitals with Multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C) associated with the novel coronavirus during the peak of the pandemic. MIS-C is a rare but severe condition that shares symptoms with toxic shock and Kawasaki disease, including fever, rashes, swollen glands and, in severe cases, heart inflammation. It has been reported in yout patients about two to four weeks after the onset of COVID-19.
Common thinking is that children are less likely to have COVID-19. If they catch it, they may be asymptomatic or manifest mild symptoms. Keep in mind that available data excludes a full school year. There is also scant data on child-to-adult transmission. If your school district has in-person classes, the children who attend will become test subjects for pandemic transmission.
August 17, 2020 – The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill abruptly decided it will no longer hold in-person classes on campus after about 130 students tested positive for Covid-19 in the first week since classes began. The stunning rise in cases, just a week after classes began, illustrates the speed of Covid-19 and the difficulties of bringing young people into proximity during the pandemic. —CNN
Are you confident that the masks your child receives from the school district (if they have in-person classes) will fit well? A mask with large air gaps or one that slides down below the nose offers very little protection. Single-use masks are typically not worn more than three hours. For longer classes, a 2- or 3-ply washable cotton mask is preferable. In fact, children will be going through masks like dirty socks. Do you have a supply, not only for school, but for periodic excursions?
As part of back-to-school shopping, parents will likely still buy pens, pencils, notebooks, and clothing. If your school year is conducting virtual classes, your school clothes budget will likely decrease. Most people may focus attire on that which is visible on a webcam, like blouses and shirts. House slippers will keep feet warm and masks are necessary for periodic teacher conferences or trips outdoors.
- COVID-19 (coronavirus) in babies and children. mayoclinic.org
- How Much Internet Speed Do I Need? broadbandnow.com
- Speedtest by Ookia. speedtest.net
- These kids are getting left behind when schools go online. cnn.com
- Women are in a terrible new bind. cnn.com
- COVID-19 Forces the Question: Should the Youngest Learners Have Devices? edweek.org
- How Does Socialization Affect Child Development? mom.com
- Early childhood social and emotional development: Advancing the field of measurement. sciencedirect.com
- The Big Winners From LAUSD's Emergency Coronavirus Spending: Tech Companies. laist.com
- Apple and ConnectED. apple.com
- Use parental controls on your child's iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. apple.com
- Manage your child's account on Chromebook. google.com
- NYC Remote Learning Device Request. coronavirus.schools.nyc
- Our pandemic back-to-school supply list. cnn.com
- Rare syndrome linked to COVID–19 found in nearly 600 U.S. children: CDC. reuters.com
- Main photo by August de Richelieu from Pexels.