Just over one out of three parents (37%) think that schools should invest more in digital teaching post-coronavirus. That is the conclusion of a Telenet survey among more than 1,500 Belgians, including 500 households with school-going children. 17% said that their children preferred online teaching over physical classes, whereas 60% of all parents stated that their children preferred how they used to go to school pre-lockdown. During the lockdown, more than half of all parents looked the other way when it came to screen time rules.
In the past few months, children turned to the Internet and screens for entertainment and to keep in touch with their family or friends as well as follow online classes or make their homework. Their parents think that they should do the latter more frequently. Just over one out three parents (37%) are of the opinion that schools should invest in digital teaching more post-coronavirus. Just under one in three parents (31%) thinks that online teaching should be continued until the end of the school year. 15% believe that it should continue until a vaccine is found against SARS-CoV-2-virus. According to experts, we need to take a more nuanced approach to digital education, however.
"Assessing online education based on the previous months, which were spent in lockdown, is not fair. We had no choice but to switch and we had to do it quickly. It’s difficult to say whether the end result will be a combination of physical and online education. I think once it’s no longer necessary, there will be less of a desire to implement it. In Belgium most schools are just around the corner. Whereas the situation is very different in places where distance education is a real necessity, such as in remote areas. I tend to believe that digital education must be used at the right time. If we find ourselves in a similar situation, then we should be able to make the switch to digital easily. But I continue to be convinced of the merits of physical education.” Educational scientist Pedro De Bruyckere
Sixteen percent of parents indicated that there they did not have sufficient resources, including laptops, tablets, or a good Internet connection, to allow their children to easily follow online classes. 75% had all the resources they needed. In recent months, Telenet implemented several measures for disadvantaged and vulnerable youngsters. The provider, among others, distributed vouchers so young people who do not have an Internet connection at home, could connect to the Telenet Wi-Free signal. Telenet also supported various organisations with donations of smartphones and laptops.
Looking the other way
Spending long days at home, entertaining the children, whether working remotely or not: the past few months have been extremely taxing for parents. Half of the respondents (51%) looked the other way when children went online or turned to screens for entertainment.
41% of the respondents stated that they already enforced screen time rules in their household pre-coronavirus. More than half (58%) of all parents eased the rules and 8% even temporarily abolished them for the duration of the lockdown. The rules were tightened in only 3% of all cases.
“You most definitely are not a bad parent if you put your children in front of a screen more frequently during the past months. In many cases, you simply had no other option. Most of the screen time was interactive anyway, because it involved social contact online. This is much less problematic than passive use and spending hours staring at a screen. With the summer ahead, ensuring that children spend enough time playing outside and being creative offline is a priority. Not because screens are unhealthy, but because we need to restore a healthy balance and explain to children that the excessive use of screens during the past months was out of the ordinary.”
Educational scientist Pedro De Bruyckere