Latino Teens: Distance Learning Is a Giant Stressor amid Coronavirus


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Latino teens are more worried than their peers that they won’t be able to keep up with school work or extracurricular activities amid coronavirus, says a new survey by Common Sense and SurveyMonkey.

70% of Latino teens fear falling behind in homework.

62% of Latino teens fear lagging in activities like band and sports.

These are far higher percentages of worry about online, distance learning than their white (49% and 53%), black (66% and 54%), and other (40% and 50%) peers.

How “real” is this teen angst?

Many Teens Are Not Connecting with Teachers During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Coronavirus has shut down schools and fueled the rise of online, distance learning.

latino teen student distance learning laptop computer home coronavirusBut not all teen students regularly communicate with their teachers.

One in four teens connect with teachers less than once a week. Over 40% haven’t attended an online or virtual class since in-person schools closed, according to the Common Sense survey conducted with 849 U.S. teens between March 24 and April 1, 2020.

The problem, the data suggest, is no access to the Internet.

Inequities in Internet Access Are Thwarting Distance Learning

Learning is stalled for the 12 million U.S. students who live in homes with no broadband Internet.

“With the majority of kids now learning from home instead of school and, as this poll indicates, struggling to keep connections with teachers, the nation is confronting a huge equity challenge,”said Jim Steyer, CEO of Common Sense. “It’s more critical than ever that students have access to technology for learning and safety no matter where they live.”

latino teen parent student distance learning laptop computer home coronavirusBroadband access is especially critical for Latinos.

About 23% of Latino children live in homes with no high-speed Internet. This is a higher percentage than their white (10%) and Asian (5%) peers, according to a 2018 study by Pew Research Center.

18% of Latino students said they don’t have access to a computer at home.

“Latinos also were found to be the most likely to not complete assignment because of lack of access,” according to the Pew study. “[Latino students also were] most likely to believe they received a lower grade because of their lack of access to the Internet.”

Latino teens worry about more than learning due to coronavirus, too.

Teens Also Worry about Coronavirus Infection, Economic Impact on Family

Most teens are at least “somewhat” practicing social distancing (94%).

But teens of color worry more that they or someone in their family will be exposed to the virus, according to the Common Sense survey.

Latino teens especially worry about the financial effects.

“Nearly nine in 10 Hispanic/Latino teens (87%) say they’re worried about the impact on their family’s ability to make a living,” according to the survey.

latino boy stress sad teen bias hate crimes violence coronavirusThe reality isn’t too far off.

COVID-19 is worsening the health and social inequities facing U.S. Latinos.

The pandemic also is raising fears of racial/ethnic and income disparities in coronavirus exposure, testing, prevention via social distancing, and treatment.

49% of Latinos say they have taken a pay cut or lost a job.

“Students in poverty are having to deal with the trauma of living in a pandemic without many of the protections that more affluent families have, like the ability for parents to work from home or take sick leave,” wrote Anna North for Vox.

How Can We Improve Connections for Latino Teens?

Online learning barriers are many: language, equipment, parents who work, physical space.

So schools are sending devices to students. They’re strengthening school wi-fi signals to cover local households, or partnering with providers to get students Internet access, Vox reports. Some urge leaders to consider the Internet as a public utility.

Wide Open School english language learners spanish common sense media coronavirus distance learningCommon Sense also is working to help.

They created Wide Open School for educators and families. This is a collection of online learning experiences and activities for kids curated by the editors at Common Sense. Resources appear by grade and subject. These include offerings from Khan Academy, Noggin, PBS, YouTube, Scholastic, and more. It also has an English-language learners section.

Common Sense Latino is also featuring Spanish-language resources.

They also started the #ConnectAllStudents campaign to close the digital divide.

“[The campaign will engage] close to 1 million educators in all 50 states, to collect and share stories from educators and families who are trying to learn without connectivity,” Steyer said.

“We want to make sure Congress hears your voice as we ask them to fund devices and broadband service so all students can connect to distance learning this school year.”

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