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The Lowdown Hub

Pandemic disrupted learning for U.S. teens, but not evenly, poll shows

The switch to virtual learning was an unexpected, unplanned experiment that was conducted on millions of school-age children.

When the coronavirus pandemic struck the United States in early 2020, schools across the country closed their classrooms, handed out laptops and tablets, and gave educators a crash course in holding squirming kids’ attention over apps like Zoom.

More than two years later, there’s new information about the impact that switch has had on teens between 13 and 17 years old and their parents. In a survey released Thursday by the Pew Research Center, there are signs that some things are returning to the way they were before the pandemic, but some teenagers feel left behind. 

The survey found that most kids have kept close relationships with friends and families over the pandemic and that they prefer going to school in person more than remotely.

However, there are notable differences in how the pandemic, specifically remote learning, has affected Black and Hispanic teenagers and lower-income families.

“One thing that stands out is we tend to see a difference in teens’ experiences by their household income,” said Colleen McClain, a Pew research associate who focuses on Internet and technology research.

Some of the starkest differences are around completing homework, known as the “homework gap.” Some teens are falling behind in school work, often due to a lack of adequate technology to complete assignments at home.

Twenty-two percent of teenagers said they have had to finish homework on their phones, and 12 percent said they sometimes can’t complete t