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Social studies: Will digital learning impact social development?

(PHOTO: Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — Some school districts in Utah are now less than two weeks away from the first day of class, amid a lot of remaining uncertainty. As parents consider online options, some have expressed concern about harming their children’s social development. Experts are now more openly talking about how digital learning may mentally impact young students.

Drawbacks to digital learning?

The myth of home-schooled kids being socially awkward is just that… a myth. That’s according to Erik Hanson, President of the Utah Home Education Association.

“Most people that home school are usually doing it in some sort of a group or community of some kind,” he said. “So they are getting socialization.”

He says in an unusual year like this, it shouldn’t be that hard for parents to link up with one another and set-up safe group outings. That could be getting their kids together at a house to do schoolwork or maybe just meeting up for lunch.

Doctor DeLaina Tonks is the principal at Mountain Heights Academy, a local online charter school. She says there are actually plenty of kids who welcome being out of a traditional school setting and it helps grow their confidence.

“If they were bullied in the lunchroom for the past three years, they are going to be really happy to not be in the lunchroom anymore,” she said.

‘A rough summer’

From a clinical perspective, it’s been a hot topic. Dr. Doug Goldsmith is a child psychiatrist in Salt Lake City. He says on one hand, pulling a kid out of school and perhaps away from friends could just be another tough blow in a series of them this year.

“We’re seeing higher rates of anxiety and depression amongst kids of all ages,” he said. “It’s been a rough spring. It’s been a rough summer.”

He adds that not every kid is against learning from home, far from it. What most of them actually have a problem with is all the uncertainty they’re still facing.

“What we’re hearing from the children is that ‘we’re really confused,’” Goldsmith added.

He says what parents can do, at the very least, is listen to their kids during this time. If they hate going to a traditional school, then being there could actually hurt their social development, instead of help it. Additionally, across all spectrums, experts seem to agree that no two kids are the same.