During the pandemic, much of daily life has moved online. Working and learning from home requires a variety of adjustments.
When Americans were sent home for safety, the internet became the hub of human activity. Students had to adjust to remote learning. People who didn't lose their jobs starting working from home. Those who did lose their jobs turned to the internet to apply for unemployment, seek out entertainment like games, movies and music videos, and more recently visit the IRS website to try and determine the status of their stimulus check.
Dr. Nicole Beurkens is a best-selling author and clinical psychologist.
"We're seeing that there's been a 105% leap in digital homeschooling and 65% increase in online communication versus video games and social media. So the good news is that kids in the U.S. and in Europe seem to be using a lot of the time that they're online right now for not only learning kinds of things but also to keep in touch with friends and family, so that certainly is a promising thing."
As school districts and colleges scrambled to support new demand for online presence, local governments stepped in to assist those in need: Hudson, New York Mayor Kamal Johnson distributed 50 free wi-fi hot spots to student households lacking internet access. "Families receive a phone, and getting it connected, all they have to do is plug it into the charger and they can go right on to the internet."
Similarly, Albany County Executive Dan McCoy was able to fast-track a long-planned rural broadband initiative. The service is a big step up from dial-up internet. Some some 300 students will be granted access at no charge. Other households eventually will be able to subscribe.
"We're gonna work the cost out and make sure we pick that bill up so that they don't have to worry about it if they don't have the means to pay for it."
Guilderland School District was the first to shut down in the Albany area, where Dr. Marie Wiles is Superintendent.
"We have recreated school out of the ether. Every single system, every single way that we operate, we've had to rethink in the last month. I could not say enough about not only the work of our own faculty and staff and Guilderland, but across the region there has been tremendous leadership in having school districts work together to solve some of these unanswered problems and to coordinate curriculum and to share teaching resources.
The Capital Region BOCES has been instrumental in coordinating the work among 23 school districts. And that work has been shared across the state. SUNY Albany, the School of Education, has put together a tremendous repository of resources for teaching and learning. So the resources have materialized in remarkable speed they are high-quality. They are engaging, they're not the same as being in school."
Dr. Beurkens has concerns as online time ramps up:
"Of course the downsides of so much screen time and device use, you know can come in the form of not only some physical issues with being more sedentary. But also just a mental health in the behavioral issues that we see for children, especially around spending so much time on screens."
Add that to the pressure on parents of being cooped up working from home or just being furloghed at home, managing kids who need to be attending class online... all while worrying about catching COVID-19...it can be a pressure-cooker of emotions.
Albany County Department of Mental Health Director Dr. Stephen Giordano invites anyone having difficulty dealing with coronavirus-realted issues to call:
" 518-269-6634 - we have volunteers and staff members manning it seven days a week. I would just say that it's a mental health support line. And although we'll handle anything that comes in, we have had to direct a few calls to other sources. "