Humans evolve in times of crises. In the past three months, all of us have learnt new ways of coping and evolving with the corona pandemic. One such effort to keep the academic calendar on track, has been promoting the system of online teaching for schools.

In India, we were lucky that the pandemic started when the school year ended. Parents believed that the situation would sort itself out within a month or two, and that they would be happily packing the kids off to school with their back packs and lunch dabbas by June. As time passed, there seemed to be no signs of things getting back to normal. Schools, parents and governments were left scratching their heads as to how to manage the situation.

Hence the discovery and the sudden over popularity of E-Learning or Tech Ed.

According to the UNICEF, there are about 1.5 billion children worldwide and 250 million in India who are a part of the school system, and whose lives have been thrown out of gear due to the pandemic.

Debates have been going on in television channels, newspaper articles, and whatsapp groups about whether e learning the way ahead for this academic year. Politicians have proclaimed it as the future of education. Educationists lament the harm it can cause. Mental health professionals have for the longest time been concerned about the amount of time children are spending in front of screens.

As parents, we are now in a dilemma as to how and whom to rely on, in this experiment with our children. Trying to sort through a mound of data to reach a sensible conclusion, this is what emerged.

How good an option is it?

During the first two months of the lock down period, parents had a significant amount of the time free. Hence, it was easy to stay away from screens and do something fun. Now, most parents have returned to work or at least work from home. The amount of time spent with children is on the decline. Due to the fear of the pandemic, parents are scared to send their children out to play. Even stay at home parents find that handling children is a full time chore which disrupts their work patterns. So, children are slowly switching over to more TV and more internet for their source of entertainment. As the school year was complete, children do not have textbooks to read up for the next year. Hence, the number of children addicted to technology is slowly and surely on the rise. E classes give a sense of discipline, a way out of boredom and some form of academic activity which can keep the child occupied and learning something useful even without supervision. This is one distinct advantage of having classes at home.

How much screen time is good?

A few countries like Canada, Australia and Italy have screen time norms for children. The American Academy of Paediatrics has formulated guidelines which say that there should be no screen time given for children below two years of age. For kids between two and five, a maximum of one hour is allowed. Children between six and eighteen should have no more than two hours of screen time.

Also, there are two types of screen times. Active screen time, which  involves the child engaging either mentally or physically with the content being shown.  For example, during an e class or while playing a video game. Passive screen time, on the other hand, is sedentary watching of a screen. For example, watching cartoons or mindless internet browsing. On an average day, active screen time plus passive screen time should be the total screen time that the child begets.

By these standards, our children are already bordering on to an addiction. If e classes are held for two to four hours a day, and the child then switches to tv for entertainment, he/she would be spending about 6 hours a day in front of the screen!

We also need to take into consideration the amount of eye strain, back pain and fatigue associated with concentrating on a class with grainy visuals and poor audio due to connectivity issues. Recorded videos classes are a better substitute, as there is a flexible time frame, parental involvement and a break from staring at the screen for too long.

  1. How effective is it?

We live in times where our younger generation is way more proficient at handling technology than we are. Teachers are new to the field of technology and animation which make for a more interactive e classes. They may have difficulty in making interesting lesson plans, learning to talk to a camera instead of at faces, or using newer versions of technology or gadgets. All of this makes for a sketchy learning experience, much less interesting than school. Reports have claimed that teachers are facing overwork and burnout.

As children in front of the screen are more adept at technology, they often know how to open multiple windows and browse the internet through the course of an e class when the clueless teacher keeps going on with the lesson. Ensuring that the child is concentrating fully on the class becomes a difficult task.

  1. How feasible is it?

For e learning to be successfully implemented, households must atleast have smart phones, electricity and internet connectivity. It is surprising, shocking to know that only 8% of all households with members aged between 5 and 24 have both a computer and an internet connection. Only 47% households received electricity for more than 12 hours a day.

Poor internet connectivity in many villages keeps the child out of class for no reason other than his or her geographic location. Else, the child has to find ingenious methods to download her school work.



In households with two or more children, there is a scramble for the amount of time each child is allowed with a smart phone, which is only available to them when the parent returns from work.

Therefore, it looks like we are currently ill prepared to adopt to e learning on a large scale.

  1. How psychologically correct is it?

We send our children to school because they need to learn much more than just their textbooks. Things like play, companionship, adjustment, competitiveness and an understanding of the way of the world. Though there are many who are unhappy with the school system because of the pressure it puts on the children, there is no denying the fact that schooling does help our children in more ways than one.

E classes snatch away that advantage. There is no scope for group activity or interaction. In simple language, the child grows without developing the all important “common sense” which is not a good thing at all. Online classes may be a good option for older, more mature children who have learnt this earlier on, but not the younger ones.

Unfortunately, we are living in very uncertain times. The toll of the virus is yet to reach its peak. Till that happens, sending children to school does not seem like a sensible option. Taking all this into consideration, as of now, e classes seem like a good substitute — like getting food home delivered during the times of emergencies. But it can probably never replace the good old ghar ka khana a.k.a regular schools!

About the Author

Preethi Shanbhag


My name is Preethi Shanbhag. I am a psychiatrist and a mother. In my free time I love to read, write, travel and cook.

View All Articles