Covid's effects on our kids

Covid's effects on our kids

The Covid-19 pandemic presents great challenges for policy makers who are trying to come up with policies to help people adjust to the "new normal". As the Thai government races against time to roll out its Covid vaccinations and provide financial packages to reduce the blow to the economy, one issue that continues to be ignored is the development of our children.

Despite young children not being severely at risk of infection, their lives, especially the quality of their education and development, have been severely compromised as schools have closed and classes moved online.

As a result, children, especially pre-schoolers and those in secondary schools, at a time when they need physical interaction and emotional development the most, have been prematurely herded into online classrooms. In Thailand, during the third wave of Covid, classes have been conducted remotely, including those at kindergarten level.

Online classes have made teachers and child development experts worried. On Thursday, a survey prepared by the Thai Health Promotion Foundation was published. The survey stated that children as young as three years old have been exposed to the internet.

A survey among 945 primary and secondary school students found that many secondary school students -- aged between 6-9 years old are spending six to eight hours a day online, with 61% of that time spent on online education and the remaining time on entertainment platforms.

As students at kindergarten level need to attend classes online, parents have been forced to allow their kids to connect to the internet. Research has found that a lot of the content the kids are consuming does not enhance their creative development.

Yubol Benjarongkij, Dean of the Graduate School of Communication Arts and Management Innovation of the National Institute of Development Administration (Nida), said 77% of parents allow their children online for one to three hours per day; 16% allow four to six hours and 11% allow more than seven hours.

There is more than enough scientific research that shows how spending time on the internet affects a child's emotional development, causing things such as a quick temper, myopia and attention deficit disorder (ADD). Even if parents have a part to play in how much time their kids spend online, it is also the duty of the Ministry of Education to provide a solution.

The Education Ministry has been credited with trying to help state schools rise to the challenge by creating options for students to learn online on-site, as well as developing remote learning by using satellite television channels.

Yet, state schools and teachers have been criticised for lagging behind in terms of creativity. Teachers at private schools reportedly have more experience assigning homework or activities to encourage young students to get away from their computer screens and the internet to focus on art projects or spending time outdoors, or even playing board games.

The Ministry of Education must issue guidelines for state teachers to assign homework and activities that divert young students away from spending all their time online.

This concern about young children being overly-exposed to the internet may sound trivial in comparison to the magnitude of Covid's impact on people's health and our economy.

But in the future, Covid will be a thing of the past, while its impact on every child's development will last forever, and perhaps be irreversible.


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