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Why Homework Is Bad For Students Health

When kids get home from school the last thing they want to do is start working on homework. They want to get outside, play with friends or have a snack and relax.

It’s normal for kids to complain about having to do homework, but could your child be overloaded with afterschool work?

A new study says yes.

The study from the Stanford School of Education, published in the Journal of Experimental Education, claims that children in high-performing schools in upper to middle class families suffer from high levels of stress. And these groups are at greater risk for health problems, including a lack of balance in their lives and can even feel alienated from society.

Children in these high-achieving schools often spend an average of more than three hours each night doing homework. Denise Pope, senior lecturer at Stanford and co-author of the study, and her team of researchers studied 4,317 students in 10 of these schools in California.

Researchers did find that students spending a lot of their time on homework had a better level of engagement in school. However, these students were adversely affected by high stress and physical health problems.

“Our findings on the effects of homework challenge the traditional assumption that homework is inherently good,” Pope said in a statement.

Too much homework was found to be counterproductive. In a poll, 56 percent of students attributed any stress in their lives to too much homework. Less than 1 percent of students said that homework was not a stressor.

When asked how homework affects them, students reported lack of sleep, headaches, exhaustion and stomach problems. Students reported that due to the necessity of keeping their grades up, homework often came first before spending time with friends, attending after school activities or cultivating hobbies or talents outside of academic work.

Dr. Aaron Traeger, pediatrician with Advocate Medical Group in Normal, Ill., says  that with schoolwork kids have to do what they are told.

“Teachers typically do not work together to make certain days more ‘fair’  or an even workload,” he says. 

Dr. Traeger says if your kids are being overwhelmed with homework, the following are some things to consider:  

  1. Are outside school activities or sports taking up too much time? With too much going on outside of school it can put more stress on the things that ‘have to’ be done. 
  2. Is the student procrastinating too much? Usually larger projects have plenty of warning before being due.
  3. Talk with the teacher and see why there is so much homework. Is it because the work is not being completed during the class time?
  4. How are the study and working habits of the student? Working on study skills or working efficiency can make a big difference when the work load gets larger. 
  5. Medical reasons – Attention Deficit Disorder, depression, anxiety are all possibilities when a child starts to struggle. Especially if there is a very sudden deterioration of school performance. Speak with your school psychologist and pediatrician. 

A new study by the Stanford Graduate School of Education and colleagues found that students in high-performing schools who did excessive hours of homework “experienced greater behavioral engagement in school but also more academic stress, physical health problems, and lack of balance in their lives.”

Those health problems ranged from stress, headaches, exhaustion, sleep deprivation, weight loss and stomach problems, to psycho-social effects like dropping activities, not seeing friends or family, and not pursuing hobbies they enjoy.

In the Stanford Report story about the research, Denise Pope, a senior lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Education and a co-author of the study published in the Journal of Experimental Education, says, “Our findings on the effects of homework challenge the traditional assumption that homework is inherently good.”

The study was based on survey data from a sample of 4,317 students from 10 high-performing high schools in California communities in which median household income exceeded $90,000. Of the students surveyed, homework volume averaged about 3.1 hours each night.

“It is time to re-evaluate how the school environment is preparing our high school student for today’s workplace,” says Neville Golden, MD, chief of adolescent medicine at Stanford Children’s Health and a professor at the School of Medicine. “This landmark study shows that excessive homework is counterproductive, leading to sleep deprivation, school stress and other health problems. Parents can best support their children in these demanding academic environments by advocating for them through direct communication with teachers and school administrators about homework load.”