Why being a high achieving student during the pandemic means compromising your health

March 11, 2021

Being a student during a global pandemic is difficult and draining, even disheartening at times. These circumstances are especially hard on students who want to build their résumés and achieve higher than the average expectations, because now striving for excellence means endangering one’s health and, potentially, safety. More than ever, school boards and teachers need to offer their students grace, understanding and support.

Online learning has forced students into extensive screen time. This exposure is even more troubling because high school students use their phones for relaxation and entertainment, meaning that after homework, which can be anywhere between two to six hours, students are getting fifteen or more hours of screen time a day.

Scientists still don’t understand the consequences screen time can have on the developing brain and body completely, because the technology that is used today and the way it is used are still relatively new. It has been discovered, however, that it can pose many negative effects to the body.

For example, excessive screen time strains the eyes, dries them out and can cause retina damage and blurred vision. It can also cause problems with posture and create neck and back pain or stiffness. Screen time increases sleep deprivation because the blue light interferes with melatonin production. Spending long hours sitting while using a device can cause spikes in insulin and blood glucose levels and a buildup of fat in the blood stream.

Too much screen time can also change the structure of the brain, by causing the gray matter responsible for cognitive processes to shrink and deformity to the white matter that serves as the network to the brain signal communication. This can result in poor concentration, weak memory, slow information processing and weak impulse control. On top of this, too much screen time affects one’s ability to register and process emotion.

These physical consequences are unavoidable as a modern teenager, because in order to go to school, do homework to get good grades, and socialize with your peers, a screen is necessary.

Many students have also decided to attend school in person to better perform in school and do the activities they want, increasing their risks of getting COVID.

Learning as a student completely online is simply not comparable to in person learning. Teachers usually have to put all their focus on the students in class while giving instruction, and the opportunity to ask questions is harder to do from a chat. Asking for a teacher’s input on homework has to be done through email too.

That is not to say learning in person is easy. Students wear masks for 8 or more hours, sanitation is constant, and socialization is still hard and not encouraged many times for safety. But being present in the classroom for instruction is comparably an easier way to learn. Students know this, so they choose to go to school for their studies.

Extracurriculars to build résumés and clubs are also not available to students who learn completely online. With all these factors in mind, many students have little to show when trying to create applications. In order to do extra activities, some students choose to attend in person school, even though they have restrictions and some activities are not available.

It is clear being a student during the coronavirus is very hard and involves new challenges. The drawbacks students face while they navigate their high school career during the pandemic are unavoidable. Because of this, teachers and administrators need to treat the mental, physical and emotional health of students as a priority. Whether this means assigning less homework or encouraging mental health days, this issue must be taken seriously and met with proactive action. A discussion must be had to determine specifics, but for now, authority figures need to give kids the space, understanding and compassion needed to get through this tough time.

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