After the initial novelty of being on Zoom is wearing off, do you find your children getting increasingly distracted and reluctant to sit for their classes? Maybe they refuse to log in, or have more frequent meltdowns at home? If so, you are not alone, and both parents and educators are reporting an increase of weariness and fatigue among the students.
During the ongoing global pandemic and school closures, online platforms like Zoom have become tools to keep us all connected and help the students continue learning at home. This new normality has made us adapt to a different way of learning and engaging. Equally, this new norm has also brought along some challenges and obstacles.
According to Psychiatric times, zoom fatigue is a recognized condition. It can be described as the feeling of burnout and tiredness linked to using videoconferencing software for long periods. The exhaustion from learning online for an extended time is manifested through some of the following symptoms: boredom, irritability, weariness, resistance towards joining or participating, etc.
Professor Jeremy Bailenson, founding director of the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab (VHIL), identifies a few leading causes why Zoom causes fatigue:
- Intense close up direct eye contact
During in-person meetings, people naturally move their gaze between the presenter, their notes or look elsewhere. During Zoom calls, everyone is looking at others. This creates excessive eye contact, which is unnatural and tiring.
- Seeing oneself during virtual meetings is fatiguing.
According to Bailenson, seeing a reflection of ourselves for many hours per day causes us to be more self-conscious and even critical of ourselves. This, in turn, contributes to an increase in fatigue.
- Videoconferencing reduces the usual mobility.
When at school, the children walk around and move often. Simple tasks and transitions between activities and classes are rewarding for the brain and increase energy. On Zoom, the students stay in the same position for prolonged periods and movement is significantly reduced compared to a typical school day. This lack of physical activity is not natural, and Bailenson points out that research indicates that people perform better cognitively when moving.
- Video chats require a much higher cognitive load.
During in-person meetings, nonverbal communication comes across more naturally, and cues and gestures are often interpreted subconsciously. On Zoom, on the other hand, one has to put more effort into reading and sending nonverbal signals. It puts a strain on the students as it requires more focus than in-person interactions, and the brain has to work harder.
How to combat zoom fatigue
The good news is that there are a few strategies that we can utilize to combat some of the Zoom fatigue that our children may be currently experiencing.
- Helping children to identify their feelings and making space for sadness
It is not surprising that the present unnatural situation has several natural consequences. A zoom class is often a painful reminder of how much the children miss their friends, teachers, “normal play,” and the structure of a typical school day. They may feel groggy, cranky, and irritable, and helping them identify and talk about their feelings would be something that can help with their emotional wellbeing and self-regulation.
- Adding more movement in their day
During recess, transitions, breaks, and in-person classes, the children get plenty of movement on regular school days. Naturally, the students do not get as many opportunities to be active during online learning. In reality, sometimes during the breaks, the children are tempted to stay in front of the screens to complete activities, post on Seesaw, or browse on the Internet. All of these increase the screen time and contribute to the eye strain and the fatigue that the children are experiencing.
Taking frequent breaks between zoom sessions is very important for students’ wellbeing. Even a quick walk in the neighborhood, doing a few yoga poses, or simple exercises can disrupt some of the monotony, increase the level of concentration, and combat fatigue.
- Allowing for doodling
In an attempt to help, parents sometimes try to remove any toys or fidgets and ask their child to look directly at the screen to minimize distractions and improve concentration.
In reality, a pop-it, a stress ball, or another fidget can often help the children stay physically grounded and focus better. Doodling is a physical expression of mental processing and can help your child stay engaged in lessons and discussion. Therefore, some parents find it practical to provide their child with a doodle pad or a small whiteboard to draw which allows for the children to still listen and participate in class.
- Recognizing when it’s time to unplug
As we grow our children’s social and emotional competencies, it is essential to teach them to listen to their bodies and minds. While schools encourage attendance and set routines during times of remote learning, sometimes to combat screen exhaustion, it may be better for a student’s emotional state to opt-out of a meeting or a session. Thus, don’t feel guilty if you need to turn off the screen and let your child focus on time alone or run outside to recharge the brain and re-establish their wellbeing.
To sum it up, connecting through the videoconferencing tools allows schools to provide a quality educational experience for students during periods of isolation. However, the excessive and prolonged engagement through video conferencing software has led to some challenges and barriers to students’ learning. The zoom fatigue is real and impacts students’ wellbeing, but with a few changes and strategies, we can help keep the zoom fatigue at bay and support our children during these unprecedented times.
Belly Breathing: Mindfulness: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RiMb2Bw4Ae8&t=85s
Games to get children moving: https://www.gonoodle.com/
Grounding exercise to manage stress and anxiety: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=30VMIEmA114