Children participating in classes online are a helpful situation for parents to deal with the COVID-19 lockdown. In this report by SADE OGUNTOLA, experts caution on its mental health implication for children and adolescents.
In the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic, which has led to the closure of schools across the country, many private schools and the government adopted e-learning to enable students to continue with studies while at home.
In Nigeria, many schools, specifically primary and secondary, have chosen to hold online streaming on Facebook, Skype, Zoom and even on the radio. Others took to livestreaming on Facebook, WhatsApp or Telegram that did not require a tremendous amount of data.
State governments of Oyo, Ogun and Lagos among others ,to get public and private school students to be fully engaged while at home, developed daily lesson programmes to use multiple media, including radio, television and the internet to reach the students in secondary and primary schools.
Giving children alternative ways to learn and also rebuilding a routine is a critical part of our response has come with many concerns.
Hence, it is not surprising to see how the scenario is currently playing out in many families and homes from schools charging for the online classes and fuelling generators aside existing tuition fees; increased cyber bullying, internet addiction, overreliance on the internet and poor writing among students.
Some concerns are also health-related, eyesight problem, back pain, cliques, sexual experimentation and embarrassments and disappointments which could result in mental health problems like anxiety and depression. Some of these problems are regardless of overall time spent on social media.
Dr Jibril Abdulmalik, a child psychiatrist at the University College Hospital (UCH, Ibadan said encouraging young children and adolescents to resume classes online without parental supervision is fraught with many mental health challenges.
He stated that allowing young children, some below 8- year-old, access to the internet even for online classes, leave them vulnerable to all sorts of information and characters, including predators.
Children may see it as exciting, something new, freedom at last to explore just any information, even if false, join groups on different platforms, create a completely different personality for them and divulge personal information and pictures make them vulnerable to predators.
Dr Abdulmalik said there had been instances that predators had blackmailed young people, including children to do things they knew to be wrong because of threat to post obscene pictures for the whole world to see or report to their parents or school.
“By the time they start blackmailing them; this could cause a lot of emotional challenges. Some would become very anxious; depressed or become addicted to social media. If they do not go on the social media for one hour, they will be worried that somebody who has liked or made a comment on their post,” he stated.
It’s no secret that most students and teachers have smart-phones and have used social media in education. In fact, there are apps and web tools that offer social media in an educational context.
Nonetheless, he declared that students, who attempt to multi-task by checking social media sites while studying, show reduced academic performance. Their ability to concentrate on the task at hand is significantly reduced by the distractions that come with the use of social media.
Dr Abdulmalik said that prior to the lockdown to curtail community spread of COVID-19, internet addiction or social media addiction had become an increasing problem that mental health professionals had to deal with globally.
According to him, “it was already becoming a problem and now it would be worsened by the lockdown and not having other exposure to human beings, to normal classes, to exercises since now everything is online. “
However, he pointed out that internet addiction may cause an increase in depression as well as suicidal behaviours.
“Some three years ago in South Korea, a 12-year-old girl based on comments on her post on the social media committed suicide. People were commenting and she did not give information that she wanted to know if she should commit suicide.
“So there are all sorts of issues that are online that if a child is not matured, they may not be able to know the left from the right.”
According to recent studies, social media platforms like Instagram have increased the number of cases of social anxiety disorders in teenagers and adolescents.
Multiple studies have found a strong link between heavy social media and an increase in the risk for depression, anxiety, loneliness, self-harm, and even suicidal thoughts. It has also promote negative experiences such as inadequacy about life or appearance.
Some of the symptoms of a social anxiety disorder include a lack of desire to socialise, being withdrawn, feeling embarrassed or a deep fear of social scrutiny, and nervous habits like fidgeting and hair twirling.
Ordinarily many parents are not comfortable to give their children internet access because even when they assume that they should be in class, they may actually be browsing other things. And that is the danger.
The child psychiatrist, added, “I will recommend that if young children below the age of 12 are doing online classes, it should be with parental supervision and they should be short, maybe two hours with parental supervision
He said it is wrong for schools to ask that children should open a personal account but rather ask that they use their parents account on the internet to log in themselves.
Dr Abulmalik said the essence of primary education is basically to learn to read and write but only start to learning the basics of a subject in secondary school.
“So we shouldn’t put too much pressure on very young children. I have seen on Facebook where some parents were complaining that their 3-year-old children were being asked to be do online class. That is an age that children should be left to play.”
Howard Taylor, Executive Director of the Global Partnership to End Violence against Children, said although families are now relying on technology and digital solutions to keep children learning, entertained and connected to the outside world, not all children have the necessary knowledge, skills and resources to keep themselves safe online.
UNICEF maintained that a lack of face-to-face contact with friends and partners may lead to heightened risk-taking, such as sending sexualised images.
At the same time, increased and unstructured time online may also expose children to potentially harmful content as well as a greater risk of cyberbullying.
Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), declared “Under the shadow of COVID-19, the lives of millions of children have temporarily shrunk to just their homes and their screens. We must help them navigate this new reality.”
Parental supervision is as valuable online as it is offline in instilling values and safeguards. Parents should check in regularly with their children to ensure that their online behaviour is appropriate.
Parents much more than before should talk about appropriate media use early and build a relationship of trust surrounding social media. This way, when there are problems they will be more likely to talk speak out.
In addition aside parents ensuring children’s devices, have the latest software updates and antivirus programmes, there is also the need to be alert to signs of distress in children that may emerge in connection with their online activity, and be familiar with school district policies and local reporting mechanisms and have access to numbers of support helplines and hotline handy.
YOU SHOULD NOT MISS THESE HEADLINES FROM NIGERIAN TRIBUNE
Sperm Containing COVID-19 Raises Risk Of Spread Via Sex ― Study
Chinese researchers who tested sperm of men infected with COVID-19 found that a minority of them had the new coronavirus in their semen, opening up a small chance the disease could be transmitted sexually, scientists said on Thursday… Read full story
Stop Harassment Of Journalists, Other Essential Workers, PTF Tells Security Agencies
The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 pandemic has told security agencies to desist for harassment of journalists and other essential workers on duty during the period of the ongoing restrictions to contain the spread of the virus… Read full story
Lagos Records Another Two COVID-19 Deaths
Lagos State government on Thursday said it recorded two additional coronavirus related deaths, bringing the total number of deaths associated to the pandemic in the state to 33. The Commissioner for Health, Professor Akin Abayomi, disclosed this on his Twitter handle, recalling that 82 new cases of COVID-19 infection… Read full story
22-Year-Old Lady Stabs Husband To Death After Catching Him Making Call To Another Woman
A 22-year-old lady was on Thursday, May 7, arrested by men of the Nasarawa State command of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) after she allegedly stabbed her husband to death for making a phone call to another woman she suspected to be his lover… Read full story
PHOTOS: Lagos Expresses Appreciation, Releases List Of Donors To Coronavirus Fund
The Lagos State government on Thursday released list of various individuals and organisations who have so far donated to the fund to combat coronavirus in the state. In a tweet from the state government twitter handle, the state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said the state appreciated the corporate giant and individuals… Read full story
Give Account Of COVID-19 Donations Expenses, Lagos Assembly Tells Sanwo-Olu
Lagos State House of Assembly has called on the state governor, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu to make recourse to the House over expenses incurred from the donations made towards combating the COVID-19 pandemic in the state. The House also charged the governor to make recourse to it before declaring a state… Read full story
EDITORIAL: Buhari’s FCC Nominations
IN line with his usual practice regarding postings and appointments, President Muhammadu Buhari recently sparked controversy once again when he announced lopsided nominations into the Federal Character Commission (FCC). In a letter dated March 18, 2020 and addressed to the President of the Senate… Read full story
Justice Dahiru Saleh, Judge Who Annulled June 12 Presidential Election, Is Dead
Twenty-seven years after he made history by annulling the 1993 presidential election in what has now become popularly refer to as ‘June 12’, the judge, Justice Dahiru Saleh, has died. The retired judge died Thursday afternoon in his hometown, Azare, headquarters of Katagum Local Government Area in Bauchi… Read full story
Two Medical Staff Die, As Seven Travellers To Maiduguri Test Positive For COVID-19
Seven more people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Maiduguri after being caught by security personnel trying to sneak into the capital city. They had come in from different South-West and South-South states inside empty petrol tankers in some cases to enter Maiduguri which is the ancestral home of some of them… Read full story
Lagos Discharges 48 More Patients After Testing Negative For Coronavirus
Lagos State governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, on Thursday announced the discharge of 48 more patients from various facilities in the state, saying the patients, who had tested negative twice to coronavirus comprised 32 males and 16 females, all Nigerians… Read full story
PTF Fumes Over Persistent Violation Of Guidelines; Threatens To Review Measures
The Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19, on Thursday, expressed concerns over continuous violation of the guidelines put in place after the lockdown was relaxed and warned that the PTF may be forced to review the measures already taken… Read full story
The Pains, Struggles Of Almajiri System •Echoes from northern streets
Three years ago in Kaduna, the Kano state governor, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, at a forum made a revealing disclosure that woke up deep thoughts in the guests; he told the gathering that the state had conducted a survey and discovered that there are no fewer than three million almajiris in the state… Read full story
Ramadan: The Richness Of A Special Month
RAMADHAN is primarily intended to make Muslims and indeed mankind to remain generally good, pure and righteous. It is Allah’s yearly serious purification of the body, heart and soul of every true Muslim in readiness for admission into Paradise (a Garden under which Rivers flow)… Read full story