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Reimagining Education: Experts Say Children Need To Socialize In Person For Healthy Development

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - With restrictions still in place, it's becoming more likely that distance learning will be part of the new normal for our children. But health experts say doing it long term could leave lasting damage.

It has been a challenging transition for students, going from classroom to classroom to countless hours of screen time at the kitchen table. Remote learning has taken its toll, reported CBS2's Hazel Sanchez.

"My eyes start to go somewhere else. My eyes start to get blurry," one student said.

"It's definitely not better than seeing your friends or your teachers up close, but online," said student Tristan Smith.


With less classroom distractions, some children are thriving online. But many parents worry their kids, especially those with special needs, aren't learning and are falling behind.

"He's only 7. It's fun for him for about five minutes, and then he gets up and walks away," said parent Lynn Dillon.

The prospect of more distance learning as part of the reimagined education of the future has parents like Shalini Matani-Mehta calculating what that may mean. Her 5-year-old son Jai will be starting kindergarten in the fall, most likely from home.

"My son is shier. And I think he needs to be brought out. Is that possible in a Brady Bunch screen? I'm not entirely sure," she said.

"I think we'd be robbing our kids of their childhood and of their education," said pediatric psychiatrist Jodi Gold.

Gold says long term remote learning could have devastating effects. Several of her patients are suffering from anxiety and depression because of the constant isolation and being away from school's social environment.

While high school-aged children are more equipped to shift out of the classroom, face to face instruction is critical for young learners.

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"That's the only way they learn sense of self. It's the only way they learn language. It's really the only way they learn to be a social being. So we absolutely can't go remote long term," Gold said.

She emphasizes technology would be beneficial as supplemental learning for the classroom, but not a replacement. She says children need relationships with their teachers and classmates. For the disadvantaged, some in abusive homes, school is where they find structure, stability and security.

"Especially low income families, low income kids. They need school. They need to get out of a cramped living environment. They need to be in a situation where there's good role modeling," Gold said.

"Education is not just about 'open your book and get your pencil and paper out' or 'open your computer.' It's about forming and building relationships," said teacher Shannon Swanson.

Swanson teaches 5th grade at Ross School in East Hampton. She says her students expressed a need to reconnect with her, so she set up safe social distanced home visits.

"I met each one of them at the end of their driveway, masks on, and six feet apart, and they took me where they wanted to take me," she said. "It was just so great to connect, and reconnect, and see them in person."

Vicky Jones, a teacher at Frederick Douglass High School in Harlem, says older students need in-person guidance from their teachers to stay motivated.

"It's that interaction that the teacher establishes... that makes that kids eyes go up, and go I want to learn this! And did I do it right teacher?! I got it! You can't replace that with a tablet," she said.

Teachers and many parents hope the future of education will take the best of both avenues of learning and find a fair balance.


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