54% of Parents Say Virtual Learning Would Create a Financial Burden

54% of Parents Say Virtual Learning Would Create a Financial Burden

Lower-income families more adversely impacted
A father and son remote learning

If schools trade in-person classes for virtual learning due to the pandemic, families may not only face an educational challenge but some may experience a financial crisis as well.

More than half of parents — 54% — said childcare would be a financial burden if their children’s schools don’t open this fall, according to a survey from health and wellness platform Healthline Media. On top of that, more than a third of parents — 35% — said they would not have childcare at all if their children must stay home and engage in virtual learning.

The findings underscore the uncertainty that parents face as they balance safety concerns related to the spread of the coronavirus with their desire to ensure their children receive a quality education.

Lower-income families most impacted by shift

While all families have tough choices to make, those with annual household incomes of less than $50,000 may have fewer options. Among those respondents:

  • 48% said they won’t have childcare for their kids if in-person learning does not take place
  • 61% said they will stay home to take care of their children
  • 39% said they will not be able to return to work if their kids must do virtual learning

In comparison, approximately 25% of parents in other income brackets would be unable to go back to work if schools stay closed and don’t allow in-person learning.

Throughout the pandemic, many parents have expressed a discomfort with virtual learning. Most parents — 75% — agree that in-person learning would be more beneficial to their children’s mental health. However, only 10% of parents said they definitely feel comfortable with sending their children back to school because of the pandemic. On top of that, 41% said the push from government officials to open schools this fall is causing them stress.

With so much uncertainty remaining, 49% of parents said they aren’t sure whether they will send their children back to school this fall and 23% said they won’t send their kids back in the foreseeable future. Parents have also been taking steps to help their children become more prepared for virtual learning, such as spending more money on technology products.

An adverse effect on students

While 21% of parents said they will leave their children home alone while they work, some are not completely comfortable with the idea of leaving their children without supervision. Parents expressed the following fears about leaving their kids unsupervised:

  • 39% fear their children will fall behind academically
  • 39% are afraid their children will be socially isolated
  • 35% have concerns that the kids will eat too much junk food
  • 32% worry that the kids will not get enough exercise
  • 28% are concerned that their children could become depressed
  • 27% worry that their children will be scared

Those fears are not entirely unfounded, the survey suggests. School closures last semester due to the pandemic led to more screen time for kids, according to 36% of respondents. Other outcomes of earlier school closures on children include:

  • Feeling more socially isolated (31%)
  • Seeming emotionally down (25%)
  • Becoming depressed (19%)
  • Eating more junk food (24%)
  • Becoming more argumentative (17%)
  • Expressing anger (14%)

Methodology: Healthline Media commissioned market research firm Propeller Insights to survey more than 2,000 adults from June 16-19, 2020.

Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a Washington, DC-based writer who covers personal finance, entrepreneurship and careers.