Under this COVID-19 epidemic, young children are at risk of delay in social development.
Wearing masks make social interaction more difficult
First, when you can only see less than half of the face, reading emotions become harder. Understanding emotion is not an easy task for kids. For adults, we could still guess other emotions by what they say, how they say it, and what the situation is like. For children, the facial expression is the most straightforward way for them to read emotion.
Second, when children are learning how to express your emotion, they learn by imitation. It is important for children to observe how different people express their emotion differently. Now, children likely have only a few restricted role-models, that is, their parents and siblings only.
Third, children are learning how to speak. Not seeing the mouth and not hearing clearly make learning how to speak more difficult too.
Social distancing make social interaction more difficult
Obvious right? We, adults, can “interact” using various online platforms. But not kids. Maybe we can set up the online platform for kids, but it is not advisable to let children using electronic devices for a prolonged period of time. Also, online interaction is still very different from normal face-to-face interaction.
Social distancing also means to have much fewer opportunities to play together. Free play is very important for children to acquire social skills.
So, we can see children in the COVID-19 cohort are likely falling behind in terms of social development.
Then we make our kids feel social interaction can be deadly
School resume recently. One of the first thing children learned when school resume was — how to set up a tiny cubicle by using plastic cardboards on their table. So when they take off their masks for snacks, they are kind of protected. And “no talking” is allowed during snack time.
And even during free play time, when kids are wearing masks, teachers still remind children not to chat as “it will wet your mask and can be dangerous”. Teachers also remind the children to keep distance with one other during their play.
So not only these kids have fewer opportunities to develop their social skills, but they also grew up under the impression of physical contact or social interaction can be deadly.
I wonder how much the social development of our COVID-19 cohort children will be like. Maybe we should start thinking of plans to undo the harm we caused to these children…