White protective mask on young patient

How COVID-19 Has Affected Children’s Mental Health


Children at school classroomDavid Whited, Director of Design Research & Strategy for Highland, shared that there likely isn’t a segment of the US population that hasn’t been profoundly affected by the Coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19). While we don’t know the full, enduring impact, we know young children experienced multiple, potentially severe disruptions in the midst of crucial developmental stages. As classrooms became virtual and playgrounds sat empty, children faced radically new patterns of daily life, behavior, and thought.

In order to get a better understanding of how children are adapting and coping with these dramatic changes, Highland surveyed parents across the country about their child’s health, virtual learning, and socialization during the pandemic.

Here are their finding:

Virtual Learning

As another end to the school year approaches, district policies regarding a full-time return to classrooms vary across the country. All parents, whether their child has returned to in-person learning or not, are certainly concerned about the effects of the online, interactive virtual learning environment.

According to respondents, 72% of parents believe virtual learning is putting their child behind academically, and more than half (57%) say their child’s grades have fallen behind since the pandemic. Fifty-six percent of parents surveyed also say their child’s teacher has contacted them due to concerns over their child’s performance.

Parents have also felt the impact of virtual learning. According to our survey, 79% of parents say their child has experienced tech-related issues during virtual learning. Overall, parents are spending roughly 2.7 hours per school day assisting their children with those issues. Along with technical issues, parents cited issues such as keeping their child engaged during virtual learning (68%), limited contact with other classmates (42%), and difficulties with communicating questions to their teacher (34%) as the top challenges with virtual learning.

When will in-person learning fully return? It’s the question on the minds of many parents and students as they look toward the 2021-2022 school year. Overall, 68% of parents surveyed say they feel safe with their child returning to the classroom, and 69% believe students will return to full-time, in-person learning by the end of 2021.


Along with schooling, the pandemic has changed the way children socialize. Crucial social skills have been difficult for children to develop during the pandemic due to social distancing and limited social circles.

According to respondents, 57% of parents say their child is experiencing social isolation with roughly one less hour of socializing per day than they did before the pandemic. Overall, 76% of parents say they’ve limited their child’s social circle or group in an effort to minimize contact with others.

Mental and Behavioral Health

With psychosocial changes in our environment, 46% percent of respondents say that the pandemic has had a negative effect on their child’s mental health, while 39% say they are not sure what type of effect it has had on their child. A similar percent (45%) fear these mental health and behavioral changes are irreversible.

Parents also cited noticeable changes in their child’s behavior during the spread of Covid-19. According to respondents, 67% say their child’s behavior has changed including mood swings (66%), frequent loneliness (60%), lack of motivation (56%), and depression (52%).

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