New data suggests COVID-19 has led to academic, mental health issues in children

Published: Aug. 20, 2021 at 11:32 AM EDT
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(Gray News/CNN) – The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly supports in-person learning for children as new data suggests the pandemic has led to academic and mental health issues in kids.

“The pandemic has taken a heartbreaking toll on children, and it’s not just their education that has suffered but their mental, emotional and physical health,” said Dr. Sonja O’Leary, chair of the AAP Council on School Health. “Combining layers of protection that include vaccinations, masking and clean hands hygiene will make in-person learning safe and possible for everyone.”

Kaiser Family Foundation Researchers asked more than 1,200 parents of kids younger than 18 about academic success, mental health and childcare between July 15 and Aug. 2.

They found 39% of parents said at least one of their kids fell behind in school during the pandemic.

More than a third of parents said their child fell behind in their social and behavioral development, and more than 40% of parents said their children displayed at least one new mental health symptom during the pandemic.

They also found parents with a child who attended school at least partially online are more likely than those who attended school all or mostly in person to report their child experienced a negative impact on their well-being.

The AAP recommends that everyone older than the age of 2 wear masks, regardless of vaccination status, since many schools will not have a system to monitor vaccine status of students, teachers and staff.

“We need to prioritize getting children back into schools alongside their friends and their teachers - and we all play a role in making sure it happens safely,” O’Leary said.

The AAP emphasized “the need for schools and local communities to use science and data to guide decisions, with the understanding that policies are intended to lessen – but cannot completely eliminate – risk.”

“The last thing we want as we come out of this pandemic is an outbreak of another vaccine-preventable disease,” O’Leary said. “Now is the time for all of us to work together to keep our kids healthy and safe. Your pediatrician can help families who have any questions or concerns about returning to the classroom.”

Copyright 2021 Gray Media Group, Inc. All rights reserved. CNN contributed to this report.