Social distancing means more screen time for kids; Concerns of school work falling behind

With schools being closed and parents working from home due to the coronavirus, kids in the Netherlands saw their daily screen time increase by around an hour. And while most schools and parents are satisfied with how the first two weeks of distance learning has gone, many are also concerned about children falling behind in their school work, according to two different studies, Het Parool reports.

The Netwerk Mediawisjheid surveyed parents about their children's screen time during the corona crisis. Some 70 percent of parents work from home while also caring for their children at the same time. Many parents said that they are less strict about screen time in this crisis. Children between the ages of 0 and 6 currently spend around 2.5 hours a day on screens, compared to 1 hour and 45 minutes per day before the coronavirus crisis. 

Five- and 6-year-olds in particular saw their screen time increase, from less than two hours to almost 3.5 hours. This partly has to do with the fact that they have school assignments that have to be done online. Kids are also watching more videos. Before the crisis, Dutch kids watched videos an average of 84 minutes a day, now that's 114 minutes a day. The time spent gaming increased from 29 minutes to 40 minutes a day. 

Almost 75 percent of parents and 88 percent of school leaders are satisfied with the first two weeks of home education since schools closed, according to a poll by Ouders en Onderwijs and the general association of school leaders AVS among 1,148 parents and 1,028 school leaders. Almost all schools, 99 percent, have arranged distance learning for their pupils - mostly online. 

But both parents and schools are worried about kids falling behind. 75 percent of primary schools are worried that pupils will sustain learning arrears, and 40 percent of parents are worried about the long-term consequences for their child. Parents are mainly worried about noticing and reporting arrears, and how to catch these up when schools reopen. 

"Satisfaction is great, but we see with many answers that education is now more difficult for 10 to 20 percent of the students," Petra van Haren of the AVS said to Het Parool. According to her, this could have to do with pupils not having the right equipment at home, or parents being unable to help their kids. "Such a crisis makes these kinds of subjects very prominent," she said.

The city of Amsterdam announced that it is making lapops and WiFi hotspots available for children who don't have these items at home, so that they can also participate fully in distance learning while the schools are closed.

The measures to close schools, restaurants, museums and the instruction to stay 1.5 meters apart, were initially implemented until April 6th. Prime Minister Mark Rutte will hold a press conference on Tuesday evening to discuss these measures. The expectation is that they will be extended, likely until late April or early May.