Medical body NIMHANS says concerns over 'adverse effects of online schooling'

Several State Governments have encouraged online learning for students across the country.

Credit : MoneyControl

Bangalore: Access, isolation, safety and effectiveness of learning have been pointed out by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS) in Bangalore as the major adverse effects of online learning on children. 

Several State Governments have encouraged online learning for students across the country in view of the Coronavirus pandemic, as the new academic year began in June. However, a recent document by the NIMHANS has elaborated on the adverse effects of this method.

The document was released by the Institute on June 11th, as a reply to a Right to Information (RTI) query by the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, NIMHANS.

In his query, RTI applicant Ajay Sharma from Punjab filed a query regarding the effects of prolonged studies via online education through mobiles, laptops, televisions, on the age from 3-15 years (for 2-4 hours per day) for two months, on the brain, psychology and the behaviour of the child.

While NIMHANS acknowledged that the online medium seemed to be the only safe alternative during the pandemic, the Institute also elaborated on the several side-effects that the method of learning might have on youngsters.

"The first concern is access. a large number of children and families do not have access to the technology necessary for digital classes," wrote the Institute in its report. As pointed out by the several experts and teachers across Maharashtra, Indie Journal had reported recently that a very small percentage of children in the state actually had access to resources required for online learning.

The Institute also pointed out that this medium might also affect the mental health of children due to the issues of safety as well as increased time on online platforms.

"Children are at a risk to be sexually exploited by online predators, and therefore there is a need for monitoring children's online behaviour. We are also concerned about increased screen usage for non-academic activities, especially social media platforms. Online learning requires higher degrees of self-regulation and self-management. Increased screen usage may also interfere with sleep," the response read.

"In schools, children and adolescents get to meet and mingle with their friends. This leads to good socialisation, which is a very important skill for children and adolescents to learn," added the document saying that learning online on their own might lead to isolation amongst children.


Effectiveness of online learning

While several parents and education experts have been questioning how effective would be the digital platforms in imparting education to the students, NIMHANS has also touched upon the issue, saying that the transition from face-to-face to virtual has a number of challenges which will require intensive planning as well as some trial and error.

The response stated, "The effectiveness of e-learning is also to be considered. Teachers and students are learning how to use technology.”

Parents across the country have been divided over the effectiveness of online education, especially for younger children. While some find it a good way to keep children engaged, at the same time ensuring that their education is not affected, many have expressed concerns similar to above. They have also said that they found that the classes have not at all been useful for their younger children in primary classes.