Distance Learning: For the Fall, Permanently, or Not at All?

The positive and negative effects of distance learning have been debated within the last few months for K-12 schools and higher education. Places like California State University (CSU) have already decided to move toward remote learning for most classes for the fall 2020 semester. Many administrators and educators have questioned whether or not it is too early to say if the fall semester will remain online for both K-12 schools and higher education. However, 482,000 students at all 23 campuses of CSU know all too well that regardless, they will most likely have to continue to adapt to this change in education.

The Washington Post stated that, according to university officials, “exceptions could be made for laboratory-intensive courses and certain others.” These lab specific courses will need to meet in person and follow social distancing regulations like wearing a mask and staying 6 feet apart at a minimum.

Pace University, located in New York State, has followed a different approach for higher education by announcing its intentions to allow students to move back on campus for the fall. Will class sizes be reduced as a precaution? Will class schedules change from weekly, to bi-weekly, to limit face-to-face interactions?

K-12 schools administrators have also been discussing their plans for re-opening schools for the upcoming 2020-2021 academic year. Tests have been canceled, including the SAT, which impacts teachers, and juniors’ future college applications. Parents remain in a holding pattern with a desire to start making plans if they have to be at work and their children are at home with no supervision.

Parents are already under stress from layoffs, reduced income, and being a teacher at home while trying to get remote work done, if possible. However, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has controversially suggested that it might be time to permanently switch to online education, as the in-person teaching is old-school, in his opinion. In response, petitions have been started to speak out against this idea as many people disagree or simply cannot afford to do so.

Essentially, he suggested that these traditional methods of teaching should soon be replaced with permanent virtual education. High school students might be able to adapt to this, but what about middle school students, elementary students, and those in kindergarten and pre-k students? How would permanent virtual education impact a child’s emotional growth and social skills & abilities that they learn through face-to-face interactions?

We encourage colleges, universities, and K-12 schools to think about these questions and have discussions with their administrative staff. While we cannot answer these questions for you, we can provide helpful information to assist you based on what we have seen and observed throughout the past few months.

K-12 STUDENTS DURING COVID-19:

  • 2x rise in online bullying, also known as cyberbullying
  • 2x increase in family issues, including domestic violence
  • Parents exploiting their children for personal financial gain
  • Predators are targeting children online at an increased rate

All five major topics listed below have increased since the start of this global pandemic and the transition to distance learning. With June being National Internet Safety Month, we have created a webinar series called “Navigating Cyberbullying, Online Predators and Child Exploitation” to talk more in detail about these topics. Details can be found at the bottom of this post.

Cyberbullying and Cyber Harassment:

  • We have seen a major spike in submitted reports of these incident types
  • Online activity has increased which means more possible instances of cyberbullying
  • Social media usage and online gaming have increased dramatically
  • With increased online usage, are students being judgmental and mean?

Mental Health:

  • Depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts have increased
  • Kids spend more time inside unable to have face-to-face social interactions
  • More time at home can lead to more financial and emotional family issues
  • COVID-19 itself is a frightening topic for kids and produces anxiety

Domestic Violence: (Psychology Today)

  • Victims often do not come forward right away, if at all
  • Leaving their home is their escape and aids in their ability to report the incident(s)
  • Not being able to leave their home prohibits that
  • Intimate partner violence, or IPV has increased greatly, and the United States Population Fund predicted that a 3-month quarantine would raise IPV cases by 20 percent, according to Psychology Today
  • Violence can be physical, mental, and emotional

Exploitation of Children: (Safe and Sound Schools)

  • Many teens and their parents cannot go to work and earn money, so they sign up for sites in which they “sell their bodies” through posting sexual content
  • Although children can say they are older, voluntary exploitation is more common among older teenagers and young adults
  • Most children fall victim to exploitation, but do not say anything because of embarrassment

Susceptibility to Predators: (FBI)

  • Child predators typically look for victims online
  • The more time children spend online, the higher chance of falling victim to a predator
  • Predators typically use online messaging to become friends with children and hope to earn their trust
  • Children are coerced into sending images of themselves

With increased online activity during this “new normal,” educators, parents, and guardians need to remind children of the warning signs that someone online is involved in sexual exploitation. It is important to monitor internet and device usage, and to encourage children to come forward if they experience such incidents.

As we begin to plan for the safe return of students to schools, this newly expanded online world of distance learning has brought forth new challenges for students, parents, and administrators. These situations need to be faced head on and it is essential to develop a plan for responding to a child when he or she discloses alleged cyberbullying, sexual abuse, sextortion, cyberbullying, suicidal thoughts, and more.

How Anonymous Alerts Can Help:

  • Administration can promote Anonymous Alerts reporting for sensitive issues
  • Administration can customize incident reports to fit the distance learning realm
  • Students can take screenshots of online activity or pictures of domestic abuse to send in with their anonymous reports to administrators
  • And more

One of our responsibilities as an anti-bullying incident reporting and management software company is to help mold the world we all live in. Our Anonymous Alerts mission is to help the well-being of students and their families through proactive anonymous reporting of bullying, harassment, drug use, weapons on campus, and more in order to defeat hatred, cruel acts, intolerance, and inequality.

The changes we have seen in students over the past few months have had a powerful impact on how we all do our jobs. For students, parents, and staff, please know that Anonymous Alerts will continue to support school communities, regardless of whether distance learning is continued or not. We encourage parents to contact their school district and share this article with school administrators to spread awareness of these critical topics.

Invitation to register for the Upcoming Webinar:

Navigating Cyberbullying, Online Predators, and Child Exploitation

Sources:

By T. Gregory Bender
President/CEO
Anonymous Alerts®

Copyright © 2020 T. Gregory Bender. All rights reserved.

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