Does online school help with anxiety? (Online vs Traditional)

In this guide, we will answer the question ‘Does online school help with anxiety?’ and we will talk about some of the signs and symptoms you could notice in a child and adolescent when they are experiencing higher levels of anxiety. Moreover, we will also discuss the pros and cons of online schools in contrast to traditional learning. 

Does online school help with anxiety?

You may be wondering ‘Does online school help with anxiety’ maybe because you have a loved one that suffers from mild to severe anxiety or you may be considering it for you. There are some clear advantages of online learning, such as allowing students to go at their own pace and/or having the opportunity to study at times that fit their needs.

However, it doesn’t mean that online learning is a permanent solution for academic or social anxiety. For instance, academic anxiety is excessive fear and worry associated with classes, assignments, tests and even the school environment. It could also be generalized or limited to a specific aspect of school so removing them from their environment seems to be an effective solution.

In contrast, it is believed that online learning may encourage the development of important life skills such as organization, independence and self-advocacy. As indicated by Arizona State University:

“Online learning gives students the freedom to work on their own time, at their own pace. For students with social anxiety who struggle doing simple tasks, this is especially helpful because they can slow down without feeling like they’re trailing behind their classmates. And for students who get anxious being in a crowd, an online school eliminates having to sit in a classroom full of people, making it easier for them to concentrate on their schoolwork.”

However, opinions are divided since some people believe online school will increase anxiety. Let’s take a look more in-depth about the pros and cons of online schools.

Anxiety disorders

Currently, it is believed that anxiety disorders are one of the most common disorders and are on the rise. More and more people every day seem to struggle with anxiety and a few years ago it was believed it only affected adults but every day kids are facing situations where they don’t seem to have enough coping skills to overcome the overwhelming and persistent fear that comes with them.

Going to school, having to adapt to the environment, making friends, attending classes, having to study for tests, living up to parent expectations, among other factors and situations, may lead to poor school performance and social withdrawal when there are no tools to cope with the pressure.  

Therefore, many children and adolescents may start to show some of the signs and symptoms of anxiety disorders that may not be seen at first as part of a disorder but normal behaviour children and adolescents display. For example:

  • Difficulty concentrating or focusing.
  • Decreased school performance.
  • Fear of going to school.
  • Tantrums when having to do their homework.
  • Headaches and/or frequent stomachs (or other affections).
  • Restlessness. 
  • Rapid breathing.
  • Social withdrawal.

Subsequently, it is natural to wonder if online schools are better for children and adolescents that struggle with anxiety. However, remember that family life plays an important role in a child’s mental health as well as setting appropriate standards around school life and what is expected of them. Many parents would think that as long as their kids are safe at home, no bullying or bad social experiences can affect their child but the truth is that it may not be enough to prevent their anxiety from spiking or getting worse.

In reality, addressing the problem and providing our children with the tools to cope with difficult and stressful situations will allow them to face such situations differently in the future, meaning, we are not just talking about their current way of facing issues as children but also eventually as adults. 

Is online school better for anxiety?

It is believed that online learning could benefit students who suffer from anxiety in many ways, one of them is having the possibility of learning and progressing at their own pace, in an environment where they are free from distractions and social drama. Also, as indicated by eachieve.com:

“Teachers are accessible by phone and email, students can attend optional weekly eSessions if they want a ‘virtual classroom’ experience, and each student has an academic advisor for individual support.”

Does online school help with anxiety? (Online vs Traditional)

We understand how tempting it is to pull your child out of their school to prevent them from having more negative experiences. As parents, we want the best thing for them but some studies have indicated that this might not be the best option. The best way of helping our kids to manage anxiety is by getting them professional help while they continue their education. 

However, you may be more in control of their social interactions and what they get to experience but the truth is that avoiding having them avoid social interactions won’t help them manage and cope with their anxiety. Social interactions are vital for students to develop important life skills to help them in the future.

Pros and cons of online schools

One of the pros online schools as we have mentioned is being able to learn in a controlled environment. Traditional schools try to be structured as possible but sometimes teachers struggle having to control 20 kids at once. It is difficult for some teachers to stay on top of their students’ learning and even more so, to detect when one or more are struggling with anxiety.

In contrast to traditional schools, online schooling happens mainly at home in a safe and controlled environment that is intended to tailor the student’s needs which is difficult to achieve in an actual classroom.

Moreover, there are minimal anxiety triggers which can reduce the frequency and severity of anxiety attacks when being at home. However, this could also be interpreted as a part of the cons if a child is never in contact with anxiety triggers because they will never have the chance to develop skills to cope with it.

In contrast, if a child learns online, they will not have the same exposure to social settings and situations as a child that attends a traditional school. This may eventually be detrimental in the future if they are kept away from social settings and situations entirely or kept to a minimum. Being taught online doesn’t mean your child should be deprived of social settings to help with their anxiety, on the contrary, they should be encouraged once they have the basic tools to face them.

The decision of pursuing online education instead of traditional education is not always an easy one to make especially if we are thinking about what could potentially be the best for our kids. But it is important to stay informed and evaluate the possibilities in the long term. 

Does online school help with anxiety? (Online vs Traditional)

Why is this blog about Does online school help with anxiety important?

As we have discussed when answering the question ‘Does online school help with anxiety?’, we have gone through the pros and cons of online learning. Mostly, we mentioned how it could be a good idea if your child suffers from anxiety due to the stress the normal school setting is causing. With online schools, we have a different learning pace and even schedules seem to work on the student’s favour.

However, since the environment is way more controlled than a normal educational setting, it could lead to avoiding social settings for your child to be secure and anxiety-free. But the truth is that it could be detrimental in the future. It is recommended to help them overcome their anxiety with the help of a professional so just having them in an online school may not be a more permanent solution to managing and coping with anxiety.

Please feel free to leave any comments or thoughts about the content of this article!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Does online school help with anxiety

Is homeschool good for anxiety?

Homeschool may be good for anxiety since a kid can be immersed in a supportive environment, more personalized interaction and being supervised by their parents. Moreover, under a more controlled environment, anxious kids can be encouraged to try different and new things, parents can be more aware of their kid’s behaviour and help them if needed.

Why is online school bad for mental health?

There are divided opinions on whether the online school is good or bad for mental health. Some people may think that having their child deprived of the possibility of a traditional educational setting may encourage them to become anxious, shy, lacking social skills, etc. however, other people believe the online school can be good because their kid will feel safer (i.e. bullying free) and supervised if there is anything they need. 

Is online school a good idea for high school?

The quality of online education should not differ much from traditional education, meaning they both may give you or your son/daughter, great education. However, if what you are looking for is flexibility and learning at your own pace then the online school is a very good idea.

Is online school better than regular school?

Online schools are just as good as regular schools, but they will be the perfect fit according to what you are looking for. In an online school, it is easier to control your child’s learning environment and it can create fewer distractions than being in a traditional classroom setting. However, some parents may worry that their children may grow without the proper social interaction traditional schools may offer.

Are Homeschoolers happier?

Homeschool may become happier than students that attend traditional or regular schools. Some studies have even pointed out how adults that were homeschooled for a certain amount of time seem to be more active in their communities and social life contrasted with those that attended regular schools. However, we will need to consider what is the meaning of being happier to determine whether or not it is OK to say that homeschoolers are happier than those in regular schools.

References 

Eachieve.com: “How online school can be better for students with social anxiety”

Perspectivesoftroy.com: “Pros And Cons Of Online Schooling For Anxious Children: Anxiety Therapy MI”

Asuprepdigital.org: “Can Students With Social Anxiety Benefit From Online School?”

Does online school help with anxiety? (Online vs Traditional)

Juanita Agboola

Juanita Agboola is the editor in chief of HFNE and an expert in mental health online. She has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 2012. All Guides are reviewed by our editorial team which constitutes various clinical psychologists, PhD and PsyD colleagues.