Parents Report More Negative Pandemic Effects on Kids Who Attend School Virtually vs. In-Person

A shorter version of this column has been published by Axios.

Parents are much more likely to report their kids are experiencing negative effects if they are going to school virtually during the pandemic than if they attend school in person.

The new findings from our KFF Vaccine Monitor underscore the importance of keeping kids in school in person, which means doing it safely with masking for younger children and school staff despite controversies over mask requirements.

Almost half (47%) of parents whose kids attended school virtually or a mix of in-person and virtual during the last school year say they fell behind academically compared with a quarter (26%) of parents whose kids attended all or mostly in person.

46% of parents say their kids attending schools virtually fell behind in their social and emotional development compared with 31% of kids who went to school.

One in five (22%) parents of kids who went to school say their kids experienced mental health or behavioral problems due to COVID, but the number rose to 39% for kids whose school experience was largely through a computer screen.

Analysis of the data showed that how children got their education (in-person or online) explained these differences in academic performance and wellbeing reported by parents, even when accounting for differences in the parent’s income or education or race or whether the schools were public or private.

The findings also reinforce the urgency of getting 12-18 year-olds and then younger children as well as school personnel vaccinated as soon as possible so children can safely return to school where their parents report they experience both better academic and mental health outcomes.

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco, California.