There are two sources of this trauma for children, home and school, explained Dr Lakshminarayanan K, paediatric neurologist and epileptologist, Rainbow Children’s Hospital. “Verbal abuse is very high in India, and while corporal punishment has reduced dramatically, there are still instances that occur today. Over the last few months, children have been exposed to this kind of environment and it can result in trauma for them. This is amplified by the stressors of online classes,” he said.
According to Dr Lakshminarayanan, trauma can affect brain development in the long-term through reduced cognition and decreased learning. Memory power could also be affected, said a 2012 article published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
Dr Poongodi Bala, behavioural counsellor and consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist, added that another long-term implication could be change in personality.
The most vulnerable group at this time are teenagers, say experts. Lack of socialisation, physical restrictions, and dip in creativity and productivity can also amplify traumatic experiences. While the shutdown restrictions and online classes have children cooped up at home with little chance for socialisation and independence, teenagers engage with these conditions in an amplified manner.
“Teenagers want to be independent and to be in control, which is taken away from them. They are also more social, but are prevented from doing so. This time is particularly difficult for teens in Class 10 or 12, or those writing competitive exams,” said Dr Bala.
Dr Lakshminarayanan added that children who perform below-average in classes are affected harder with the change, as they now lack support systems they were used to before.
Moving forward, experts advise children to seek out mental health support from professionals. Dr Lakshminarayanan said parents should empathise with and support their children’s predicament, as the sudden shift to the virtual has impacted the children. Dr Bala added that parents, teachers and children understand that online classes are not the same as physical classes, and therefore fall in performance was expected and normal.