Mask warrants in daycares and schools will not jeopardize children’s development, experts say


Wearing a mask in daycares and schools, fear some parents, could prevent their children from properly learning communication skills and even hamper their ability to learn to read.

At first glance, this seems to make sense. After all, babies begin to figure out how to communicate largely by looking at people’s faces.

But child development experts say parents shouldn’t worry that mask requirements during the pandemic will cause their children to fall behind. The American Academy of Pediatrics points out that “there is no known evidence that the use of face masks interferes with speech and language development or social communication.”

This is because children are very adaptable; their job is to imbibe information, and they do it in different ways.

“Children in cultures where caregivers and educators wear headgear that obscures their mouths and noses develop skills much like children in other cultures,” Judith Danovitch, a research psychologist for children recently wrote. in the New York Times. “Even children who are blind from birth – who cannot see faces at all – still learn to speak, read and get along with others.”

A 2012 study of children under the age of 9 found “no alteration” in the ability of subjects to identify expressions of people with obscured mouths. The reason: Children of this age prefer to glean information from a person’s eyes.

“In fact,” Danovitch writes, “children with a greater ability to discern people’s thoughts and emotions based solely on their eyes exhibit greater socio-emotional intelligence.

Body language, tone of voice and especially the eyes provide valuable communication cues, and children benefit when they need to understand the subtlest.

There is also no evidence that masks in schools have a detrimental effect on children who learn to read or participate in class. Some child development experts believe that wearing a mask during the pandemic will help children develop self-discipline as well as understand the concept of social good.

Certainly, it is important that babies see faces. They begin to learn to read lips around the age of 8 months; the “visible joints babies normally see when others speak play a key role in their development of communication skills,” wrote David Lewkowicz, professor at the Center for Child Studies at Yale University, in a report. Scientific American essay.

But that doesn’t mean Lewkowicz is worried about masked daycare workers impacting the development of their charges. He points out that babies spend a great deal of their time at home, and therefore, during the pandemic, parents and other home caregivers can provide a lot of unmasked attention to “make up for the perceptual deprivation they experience at home. outside the house ”.

For the vast majority of babies and toddlers, Amy Learmonth, professor of psychology at William Paterson University, recently told CNN, “As long as they have interactions with their parents in the morning and evening, everything will be fine. good”.

–Douglas Perry

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