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Parents Report Virtual Learning Wreaking Havoc on Their Families

Photo by Thomas Park on Unsplash

Parents Report Virtual Learning Wreaking Havoc on Their Families

By Movieguide® Staff

A new CDC report indicates that virtual learning is drastically impairing children and families.

“In a probability-based survey of parents of children aged 5–12 years, 45.7% reported that their children received virtual instruction only, 30.9% in-person only, and 23.4% combined virtual and in-person instruction,” according to the report summary. “Findings suggest that virtual instruction might present more risks than does in-person instruction related to child and parental mental and emotional health and some health-supporting behaviors.”

Specifically, parents of children receiving only virtual instruction reported that their children experienced:

  • Decreased physical activity
  • Decreased time spent outside
  • Decreased in-person time with friends
  • Decreased virtual time with friends
  • Worsened mental or emotional health

Furthermore, parents of children receiving virtual instruction were also more likely to report:

  • Loss of work
  • job stability concerns
  • Child care challenges
  • Conflict between working and providing child care
  • Emotional distress
  • Difficulty sleeping

The findings of this study are not surprising, as virtual learning increases screen time and decreases important daily activities and limits access to communities.

Children’s screen time use soared by 50% during the pandemic and has no signs of slowing down.

According to Very Well Family, some of the damaging effects of screen time include:

  • Behavior problems: Elementary school-age children who watch TV or use a computer more than 2 hours per day are more likely to have emotional, social, and attention problems.
  • Educational problems: Elementary school-age children who have televisions in their bedrooms do worse on academic testing.
  • Obesity: Too much time engaging in sedentary activity, such as watching TV and playing video games, can be a risk factor for becoming overweight.
  • Sleep problems: Although many parents use TV to wind down before bed, screen time before bed can backfire. The light emitted from screens interferes with the sleep cycle in the brain and can lead to insomnia.2
  • Violence: Exposure to violent TV shows, movies, music, and video games can cause children to become desensitized to it. Eventually, they may use violence to solve problems and may imitate what they see on TV, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Movieguide® Publisher Dr. Ted Baehr addressed some of these concerns, particularly the problem of violence in media, in his book The Media-Wise Family.

Baehr writes:

Research that did more than any other to turn the tide of opinion, especially in the press, was the aforementioned 30-year study of Dr. Brandon Centerwall. A NEW YORK TIMES editorial reporting on this study concluded that “much of TV violence may serve the needs of the entertainment industry, (therefore) it fully warrants treatment as an issue for public health and social policy, and a special challenge for parents.”

Almost immediately after this NEW YORK TIMES editorial, which in effect told the intellectual community that it was okay to criticize television and movie violence, many entertainment industry decision makers decided to produce movies and television programs that would reach a broader audience by toning down or even removing the perverse violence in them. Several Hollywood CEO’s gave our Christian Film & Television Commission® scripts to review and made clear to us their commitment to family films.

In order to help parents, Baehr detailed five keys to help parents and families practice media wisdom:

  1. Key 1:  Understand the influence of the media on your children. In the wake of the Columbine High School massacre, CBS President Leslie Moonves put it quite bluntly: “Anyone who thinks the media has nothing to do with this is an idiot.” The major medical associations have concluded that there is absolutely no doubt that those who are heavy viewers of violence demonstrate increased acceptance of aggressive attitudes and aggressive behavior. Of course, media is only one part of the problem – a problem that could be summed up with the sage biblical injunction, “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character’” (1 Cor. 15:33). As the results of thousands of studies on youth violence prove, watching media violence causes violence among children. Bad company corrupts good character – whether that bad company is gangs, peer pressure or violent movies, video games and television programs.
  2. Key 2:  Ascertain your children’s susceptibility at each stage of cognitive development. Not only do children see the media differently at each stage of development, but also different children are susceptible to different stimuli. As the research of the National Institute of Mental Health revealed many years ago, some children want to copy media violence, some are susceptible to other media influences, some become afraid, and many become desensitized. Just as an alcoholic would be inordinately tempted by a beer commercial, so certain types of media may tempt or influence your child at his or her specific stage of development.
  3. Key 3:  Teach your children how the media communicates its message. Just as children spend the first 14 years of their lives learning grammar with respect to the written word, they also need to be taught the grammar of twenty-first-century mass media so that they can think critically about the messages being programmed for them.
  4. Key 4:  Help your children know the fundamentals of Christian faith. Children need to be taught the fundamentals of Christian faith so that they can apply their beliefs and moral values to the culture and to the mass media of entertainment. Of course, parents typically have an easier time than teachers with this Key because they can freely discuss their personal beliefs. Yet, even so, it is interesting to note that cultural and media literacy and values education are two of the fastest growing areas in the academic community – a trend most likely due to the fact that educators are beginning to realize that something is amiss.
  5. Key 5:  Help your children learn how to ask the right questions. When children know the right questions to ask, they can arrive at the right answers to the problems presented by the mass media of entertainment. For instance, if the hero in the movie your child is watching wins by murdering and mutilating his victims, will your children be able to question this hero’s behavior, no matter how likable that character may be?