The Pandemic Affected How Our Kids Developed. How Do We Get Them Back On Track?
By Bhavik Rathod and Tripti Ahuja — DIY.org
With everything the pandemic irrevocably changed, its effect on childhood development remains one of the most problematic issues of them all. Dubbed the “Covid Generation,” children under age five have weathered unprecedented times during some of their most formative years. The consistent inconsistency that was the hallmark of the pandemic has led to developmental delays both socially and academically.
While children generally fared well with COVID-19 infections, the lasting effects of parental illness, stress, job loss, school closings, and quarantine have both puzzled and fascinated experts. Some research suggests that pandemic stress during pregnancy could affect a child’s growth and development.
Regardless of how families individually approached pandemic restrictions, children have not had regular social interactions since March of 2020. While the pandemic shutdown and restrictions have been waning recently, many children are still heading off to school for the 2022-2023 school year masked or logging into virtual classes. Many parents are still stringent about staying home and distancing themselves from people outside. Inconsistency and upheaval remain as the world makes its way out of this historical time, and children continue to suffer from setbacks.
Social and Academic Impact
Studies show that an additional 100 million children worldwide fell into multidimensional poverty in 2021 due to the pandemic. Pre-pandemic economic hardship, mixed with the unprecedented stress placed on children amid the worst of the pandemic, contributed greatly to developmental setbacks.
Socially, children have not been given the typical avenues to develop social skills among peers or adults other than their parents. Many children missed the opportunity for formative preschool and kindergarten classes, with online attempts falling short at teaching children necessary social skills such as sharing and routine. With many parents juggling working remotely with all-day child care and online school, children have become used to wildly-fluctuating schedules and being the only child getting attention rather than being amid a classroom full of kids and learning to wait their turn.
Academics were severely impacted by the pandemic. Rolling school closures, staffing shortages, and massive absenteeism during peak infection periods have contributed to an academic structure in turmoil. As a result, test scores and performance have been detrimentally affected. Reading skills of the youngest students completely stalled during the pandemic, according to a Stanford article. Experts surmise that the negative effects of the pandemic on academics will be felt for years to come.
Getting Kids Back on Track
Many strides have been made in educational theory, EdTech, and social media platforms attempting to bridge the gap between what children lost during the pandemic and where they need to be. Much of the approach is attempting to look at education differently. Even pre- pandemic, many children were falling short in the areas of reading and mathematics. Educational experts are focusing on getting kids back into the classroom, getting them socialized once again, and introducing new ways of learning that speak to where we are globally, in terms of both technology and theory.
Though many may wistfully long for the days of writing long-hand essays in perfect cursive or spending all day roaming the neighborhood with a gaggle of kids until the streetlights come on, times have changed. The digital revolution has forever altered how we socialize, learn, and conduct business globally. To get kids back on track socially and academically, we must teach them how best to engage with this digital world.
DIY.org offers ways for children to dip their toes into the social learning waters with the largest resource library of activities, projects, and videos for kids. Children find different ways to learn skills surrounded by a net of safety measures that allow for an experience that is largely child- led and developmentally sound. Social-centered learning apps and SaaS products that mimic real-life classroom situations, such as Class, are helping ease kids back into age-appropriate learning situations and keep them abreast of a rapidly-changing digital world at the same time. The sense of urgency surrounding the need to catch children up from their lost academic and social growth time is substantial. Studies by Mckinsey found that children averaged about five months behind in reading and four months behind in math for the 2020-2021 school year. Within families struggling economically, the gap was even wider. Through innovations to reach children digitally and tapping into what is most needed to get them up to speed, we can collectively try to reverse the adverse effects of the pandemic.
It’s a great time for solutions, though. As schools and parents work tirelessly to accelerate learning and close cognitive gaps - there are effective support systems around them too. With tools at their fingertips, re-engagement can be less painful and more creative, exciting, and fun.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Bhavik Rathod is the Co-founder and CEO at DIY.org - a social learning app for kids. Bhavik was the founding leader of Uber in India, where he launched their first city and then scaled their operations across South-West India & Sri Lanka. He was, until recently, the Head of Uber Eats in India & South Asia. Prior to Uber, Bhavik founded EmployeeSocial, a social rewards and recognition solution for large enterprises, and has also worked at Ernst & Young as a Manager in finance transformation consulting CFOs around the world.
Tripti Ahuja is the Co-founder and COO at DIY.org. Tripti has spent 10 years designing customer experiences for top companies around the world and an additional five years being part of founding teams at early-stage startups in India. Prior to founding DIY, she was the Co-founder at 400 Things, a destination for luxury handcrafted items, and the founding leader at Rizort, a marketplace for luxury resorts around the world.