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2020 Q2 Newsletter

New VLS Content, Technical and Research Updates

Two New Focused Topics Courses in Development

With input from the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of Military Family Readiness Policy’s Children, Youth, and Families (OMFRP’s CYF) division, the Virtual Lab School (VLS) team is developing two new Focused Topics courses.

  • Child Abuse Identification & Reporting for Support Staff

    Approximately 650,000 children are victims of child abuse or neglect each year in the United States. All staff members in a child development center or youth program have a legal and ethical obligation to keep children safe from harm. This course helps support staff members recognize the signs of child abuse and neglect, understand procedures for making a report, identify program features and policies that keep children safe, and examine their own roles in preventing and reporting child maltreatment.

  • Child Abuse Prevention for Support Staff

    The first responsibility of every staff member in an early childhood or school-age program is to keep children safe from harm. This includes protecting children from harm that may occur at home or in their child care program. This course will help support staff members understand their role in preventing child abuse and neglect. Staff members can gain a basic understanding of typical development and behaviors and develop the skills to recognize appropriate versus inappropriate expectations and guidance. Support staff members will be equipped with information on how protective factors can support and strengthen children and families through positive, nurturing interactions.

a young child with a PPE mask looks out the window

New Focused Topics Course Available

  • Sexual Development & Behavior in K-12 Students

    In coordination with the U.S. Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA), a new Focused Topics course, Sexual Development & Behavior in K-12 Students, is now available through the Virtual Lab School. This course provides foundational knowledge of typical sexual development and behavior for students in kindergarten through high school as well as problematic sexual behavior. This nine-lesson course will support K-12 teachers and youth program staff in responding to normative and problematic sexual behaviors that occur in programs. Read more about this release in its course release article.

Selected New Content Updates

The VLS includes the latest research and best practices. Our content team continually reviews new research and updates to national guidelines. Details on content updates over the last three months include:

Highlights from the Field and Recent Research

  • Impact of Technology on Children's Social Skills

    Recent research published in the American Journal of Sociology suggests that there is little evidence that screen exposure negatively impacts children’s developing social skills. Social scientists from The Ohio State University and Brigham Young University used data from The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study to compare teacher and parent evaluations of children’s interpersonal skills. The social skills of children who started kindergarten in 1998 were compared with those who began kindergarten in 2010. Results indicated that children’s social skills did not decline between 1998 and 2010 despite the increase in screen exposure in the last decade. For more information visit

  • Benefits of Spending Time Alone

    Research indicates that there are many physical and psychological benefits of spending time alone. Solitude allows you to focus your mind, think more clearly and deeply, effectively solve problems, concentrate, increase productivity, and enhance your relationships with others. Despite the benefits of solitude as a self-care strategy, it can be difficult to find time to be alone. Some suggestions to help you integrate alone time into your schedule include disconnecting from technology, getting up early, closing your office door, using your lunchtime, and marking time off in your calendar for scheduled alone time. Additional self-care strategies can be found in the VLS Focused Topics Courses Social Emotional Learning for Teachers & Trauma-Informed Care in Child Care Settings. Read the full article here:

  • Racial Disparities in COVID-19 Impacts

    The ability to become infected with COVID-19 is universal, however the results of being infected can differ. For example, older adults and those with health conditions are most susceptible to the virus, and people of color experience higher rates of hospitalization and death. Researchers have begun exploring the racial and ethnic disparities in COVID-19's impact. Two possible explanations for these racial and ethnic disparities include (1) socioeconomic conditions (employment in essential service jobs without adequate protection; residing in smaller, more crowded quarters; jobs without the ability to work from home; less access to high quality health care) resulting in higher exposure to the virus (2) health conditions resulting from exposure to adversity early in life (racism, poverty, socioeconomic disadvantages, trauma) which lead to health problems that result in greater risk for hospitalization or death from COVID-19. See the full report here:

Tech Updates

  • Family Child Care Activities Upgraded!

    In May, we updated all activities in the Family Child Care track to make them easier to complete electronically. This upgrade allows family child care providers to complete required and optional activities without having to download and print a physical copy of the file. Instead, these direct care users can fill out the activity online, then save a copy locally that can be emailed to their TCS or Program Manager as needed. School-Age activities will be the next and final Direct Care track to be upgraded. You can also access the Fillable Activities Support Article for additional guidance.

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