Opinion: Here’s what you should know about the effects of online learning on your mental health

Bella Chasen, Correspondent

No matter who you are, I’m sure that online learning has brought a lot of challenges. As we dive deeper into the abyss of online learning, it’s important for everyone to know the downsides of this treacherous and at times frustrating system that we have been forced to get used to as teenagers living in a pandemic. 

For most of us, a day in the life consists of waking up at 7:00 a.m., reluctantly joining our first zoom class (half awake), and progressing unenthusiastically through the six-hour school day. With e-learning, online extracurriculars and after school activities, teens could be looking at a screen for at least seven hours a day. With no idea how long this will last, teens like me have gotten used to learning at home and have, for the most part, adapted to the screen time. 

Despite our complaints, there are some pluses of e-learning, like free time in between classes and being able to snack whenever you feel the need to. 

But there are some fairly consequential negatives to this as well.

Katie Lear is a mental health counselor, and when interviewed by Jenna Wirth, a columnist for the Daily Orange (Syracuse University), she said that there is a direct relation between increased screen time and mental health diagnoses such as depression, anxiety, and some perceived attention problems such as attention deficit disorder (ADD). Also, according to Lear, children need social interactions for good mental health.

“We are all missing out on so many mundane social interactions: walking between classes with friends, a chat with the barista at your favorite coffee place, small talk with your professor before class starts,” according to Lear. “These little interactions really add up, and without them, even pretty hardcore introverts are feeling isolated.”

Additionally, a  2018 study with about 40,000 participants produced by Jean Twenge and William Campbell (two American psychologists) showed that kids ages 14-17 who had 7+ hours of screen time a day (vs. 1 hour or lower) were two times more likely to be diagnosed with depression and anxiety. The study also showed that those who had none or low levels of screen time were not nearly as affected by these mental health problems. 

As fun as it is to sit around on TikTok or YouTube all day, these studies and professionals are saying that we  need to have social interactions with other people. We need to be able to communicate with others and the world around us , not just on screens or through social media. 

As online learning becomes a new norm in our lives, it’s so important to know the risks of becoming obsessed with screens. 

Some COVID-safe ways to gain social interactions without being on a screen is to meet up with friends while wearing a mask and practicing social distancing and joining clubs that meet safely out of school. Unfortunately, there are limited  opportunities for what we can do during this time. This is the way it is, so we have to make new, safe ways to hang out and have social interactions. Now go get up, turn your computer off, and (safely!) hang out with a friend or two!