Pediatricians: Masking and social distancing impacting child development

AP Photo/Seth Wenig

We still haven’t reached the end of the debate over how and when we will have all of the schools open for in-person learning. The teachers’ unions are still flip-flopping on things like vaccination mandates and other COVID-related restrictions. Not even all of the parents can seem to agree, though recent polling shows that most of them are ready to send their kids back to class. But that may not happen if there are mandates in place for children regarding social distancing and, more to the point, face masks. Now we’re seeing some leading pediatricians weighing in on the subject and the news is not great for kids. Forcing them constantly wear face masks and not physically interact with each other is producing verifiable negative impacts on their early development. (CBS Pittsburgh)

Playing with your peers is an important part of child development. However, kids aren’t socializing as much due to the pandemic, which doctors say is leading to concerning outcomes.

“We’ve seen some language delays and more social anxiety. The inability of a child to leave their parent and go play with other children,” said System Chair of Pediatrics at AHN, Dr. Joseph Aracri.

Dr. Joseph Aracri said this is the case particularly for toddlers.

“What happens in that phase of child development is when a child is leaving their parents. They’re trying to separate from their parents and figure out their own identity. Why they throw temper tantrums,” said Dr. Aracri.

I’ll include my regular disclaimer that I’m not a doctor and have no medical training. But doesn’t this sound like something that should have been fairly obvious to everyone, particularly parents? That much of a change in a child’s normal routine combined with constantly hearing doom and gloom about the terrible virus that’s killing everyone can’t be healthy.

As the doctors in the linked article confirm, children need to interact with others of their own age as they first leave the nest. If they are kept locked down at home with only their immediate family members, they’re missing out on that stage of their early development.

Even if they are allowed to go to school or the playground, their normal interactions involve physical contact, whether it’s hugging, holding hands, wrestling, or playing tag. Being scolded and told that they can’t touch anyone else is simply abnormal. And the face masks are probably the worst of all. A lot of communication is nonverbal and involves reading the expressions on people’s faces. Making everyone go around looking as if they’re about to rob a bank and leaving children unable to interpret those expressions can’t produce a positive result.

The pediatricians interviewed for this report pointed to instances of delays in the development of language skills and heightened levels of anxiety. I’m sure even adults can understand the anxiety part, but the impacts are multiplied at that early stage of development. And if your child is lagging in mastering language skills, that’s a serious red flag.

We’ve already been assured repeatedly by the CDC that transmission rates in schools are low and very few children experience severe effects if they do manage to contract COVID. They need to be able to play and sing and just be children. The knee-jerk reactions from far too many people who want to insist on keeping the kids in masks and six feet apart are not helping. And based on this report, they’re arguable hurting the young ones they claim to be trying to save.

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