The pros and cons of online education for children and teens

In the context of the COVID-19 crisis, one of the most radical changes that has occurred is the need for many education systems to adapt, within weeks, to a situation where contagion must be minimized.

And in many cases, like Spanish, that means starting online classes. Something logical when you consider that our country is one of the worst in terms of the number of people infected, on the one hand, and the virus is spreading rapidly indoors where there are many people, on the other hand.

Now … what do we know about the effectiveness of Internet education? Let’s see what they are the positive and negative implications of using exclusively (at least for a few months) an online education model.

    Advantages and disadvantages of online education

    Here we will review the possible advantages and disadvantages of the online education system applied to children and adolescents, in particular in the context of the social and health crisis situation caused by the pandemic, and without losing sight of the fact that what happens in education does not correspond to what happens outside the classroom.

    Of course, we first need to clarify two things. First, it must be recognized that little research has been done on all the positive and negative effects of distance education on people of all ages in the context of a pandemic and general containment measures. So these are ideas about the probable, not about what is certain to happen.

    Second, it should be noted that the eventual use of a face-to-face, or online teaching model, is not as important as the fact that it was possible to plan in advance what can happen during the course. interruptions and transitions from one modality to another. It is very important that the education system is stable and that everyone knows what to expect in the medium term; intermittency between stages of daily classroom attendance and others where weeks go by without going to class may not be desirable.

    With that said, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of online education.


    In this section, we will go over several of the possible disadvantages of online courses in terms of education for children and adolescents.

    1. An obstacle to socialization

    All humans in general tend to need moments of socialization; and in the case of the youngest in the house, it is even more important, because play is their “default” way of interacting with the environment and with others.

    In addition, in the case of adolescents, the possibility of interacting regularly in groups of friends is important for the development of their identity, because their behavior is strongly influenced by the feeling of belonging to groups and by referents of their group. age. , and in some cases a little older than them, but still on the fringes of the adult world.

    Not leaving home means assuming limitations in this regard. And let’s not forget that play time and breaks between subjects are as much a part of the educational process as the teaching sessions.

    2. A context that does not prevent the emergence of distractors

    As students, something as simple as being in class encourages us not to be close to things that can distract us.

    It is something that occurs to a greater or lesser extent at all ages; being in sight of the teacher discourages students from completely escaping and browsing their social media pages on mobile, for example. In online sessions, it’s harder to force yourself to pay attention, as each student can do virtually anything they want while the teacher teaches the lesson.

    3. Online courses can deter students from not being able to participate as before.

    Of course, nothing forces online lessons to be sessions in which the teacher speaks and the students are silent. But it’s true that the change of modality can “displace” some students and make sure they don’t feel so involved in what is going on and what is being said during lessons, which leads to emotional disconnection.

    Technically, the content doesn’t change much, but the feeling of “going to school” is no longer the same or familiar. As a result, some people may become detached from the learning dynamics they adopted and which were beneficial.

    Think, for example, of a student who used to consult his doubts with the teacher. Considering the change of scenery, it won’t be so easy anymore, as you will now have to contact the tutor through other means, which can demotivate you and reluctantly give up asking your questions. Obviously, in the online mode you can also ask, by raising your hand, however the change can be a little disconcerting for him, and maybe motivate him not to do his consultation.


      These are some of the potential benefits of distance education for young people.

      1. Provides security against virus transmission

      There are more and more children suffering from anxiety disorders, even with disorders such as bedwetting, due to the anxiety caused by the pandemic. The possibility of “going to school” without endangering themselves or their families acts as a psychological protective factor for the little ones who are more prone to developing anxiety and stress problems

      It is also a way to protect older students, who are also the ones who usually have the most social contact afterwards, both inside and outside the family.

      2. It opens education to a flexible and enriched audiovisual environment

      Online courses break with the idea that lessons are by default blackboard talking sessions. This can be beneficial if the potential of the virtual world is exploited, Which is full of educational materials such as infographics, videos and even simulations. In addition, discussion forums also provide a space in which content can be reviewed by argument.

      3. Predisposes to “learning to learn”

      One of the key aspects of education is to provide the tools to “learn to learn”. In other words, develop the skills necessary to internalize knowledge effectively and with guarantees.

      The Internet environment is ideal for this, because getting used to the navigation, it allows us, without realizing it, to remember the “shortcuts” to access the relevant content during the revision in the study sessions, and it also provides places where we know that if we’re bombarded with doubt we’ll likely find the answer: science blogs, Reditt pages where subject matter experts answer questions, etc.

      All this improves learning even beyond the expectations set by the school, Foster a self-taught attitude. This is the best way for students to realize that learning is not just about reviewing grades and reviewing the textbook.

      Are you looking for professional psychological assistance?

      If you would like to benefit from the services of a team of fully trained psychologists in all areas of human behavior science and mental health, please contact us.

      Fr Consult Awakening Psychological Center we offer both psychotherapy for people of all ages as well as counseling for parents and family therapy, among other services. You can find us in our centers in Madrid, Leganés, Móstoles and Getafe. We also serve you via the online video call therapy format. You will find more information about our way of working, as well as our contact details, on this page.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Bell, KE and Limber, JE (2009). Ability to read, note textbooks and course performance. Literacy research and teaching, 49: pages 56-67.
      • Cull, WL (2000). Unravel the benefits of multiple study opportunities and repeated testing to remember them. Applied cognitive psychology. 14 (3): pages 215 to 235.
      • Dhawan, S. (2020). Online learning: a panacea in the era of the COVID-19 crisis. Journal of Educational Technology Systems, doi: 10.1177 / 0047239520934018
      • Fowler, RL and Barker, AS (1974). Effectiveness of highlighting for text retention. Journal of Applied Psychology, 59 (3), 358.
      • Hamilton, LA; Franks, A .; Heidel, RE; PhD, (McDonough, SLK; Suda, JK (2016). Assessing the value of e-learning and social media in pharmacy education American Journal of Pharmacy Education, 80 (6): 97.
      • Seu, JWH; Chung, JWY; Chow, MCM; Wong, TKS (2005). Online Learning Experiences: A Student Perspective. Nurse Education Today, 25 (2): pages 140-147.
      • Smolen, P .; Zhang, Y .; Byrne, JH (2016). The Right Time to Learn: Mechanisms and Optimization of Spaced Learning. ”Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 17 (2): pp. 77 – 88.

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