An abstract of medical research conducted last August from various departments at Brown University and Rhode Island Hospital lab reports has re-surfaced across the internet this week, concluding that - “children born during the pandemic have significantly reduced verbal, motor, and overall cognitive performance compared to children born pre-pandemic. Moreover… males and children in lower socioeconomic families have been most affected. Results highlight that even in the absence of direct SARS-CoV-2 infection and COVID-19 illness, the environmental changes associated with the COVID-19 pandemic are significantly and negatively affecting infant and child development.” Neurodevelopmental processes of young children have, by several means, been disrupted due to the significant decrease in educational opportunities, interaction with others and other stimulating activities that are essential to children’s cognitive growth.
A portion of the study reports on the stress of mothers playing a key role in childhood development between all stages from pregnancy to adolescence. The increased anxiety that carrying mothers have endured during the pandemic has severely impacted the health of newborns, many of whom could not feel the direct touch of their mothers after delivery. Of course, the touch of a mother and exchange of pheromones is a crucial first moment between mothers and their babies across several animal species. Disturbing videos of newborns being separated from infected mothers or placed in bizarre isolation compartments have angered people across the nation. Many are proclaiming these new procedures to be unnecessary, unnatural, and cruel.
The nature versus nurture element has played a part in the pandemic discussion. People have demonstrated, to various degrees, how adaptive they are when new regulations are put into place and social modifications are engineered into a regular daily living. Many are of the opinion that the consequences of the COVID-19 regulations have led to worse outcomes than the pandemic itself. In a later portion, the study analyzes how young children are shaped by their environment. “The first 1,000 days of a child’s life are commonly cited as an important and sensitive period of child development. Environmental factors, including maternal mental and physical health, nutrition, stimulation, and supportive caregiving, can individually and in combination affect the developing fetal and infant brain throughout this early life period [19-22]. Many of these factors have been substantively impacted by public health policies enacted in response to the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak.”
The COVID-19 Pandemic has remained a significant part of everyone’s lives for nearly two years. It does not matter if individuals had taken it extremely seriously or attempted to brush it away as best they could. The very beginning of this new medical state and world order commenced with one viral announcement- that private businesses around the country would now be requiring masks, uniting one-by-one in the attempt to fight off what many deemed to be the next potential plague. Of course, this was only meant to last two weeks.
Before 2020, the majority of the West World observed medical masks to be only regularly worn by medical practitioners or people from densely populated areas of China. Since then, discussion has arisen about the different types of masks, how long they should be worn and the age by which children should be wearing them. Already, we have evolved into a period where aircrafts were being landed and parents were ticketed due to their young children refusing to keep masks on. Families have also been escorted from restaurants as well as booted from grocery stores for not having proof of their medical status on hand.
Last year, several major U.S. airlines had implemented strict guidelines concerning the use of masks on public planes. The guidelines largely stated masks must be worn at all times with the exception of eating/drinking and must be worn by all people aged two and above. However, compact spaces using recycled air were not the only places to enforce these types of procedures. Schools and daycare providers across the country had begun to isolate children and require masks for staff changing the way infants and toddlers observe and imitate the people around them. Many linguistic and childhood experts predicted that the masks would mitigate the ability for children to observe the motions of people’s mouths and facial expressions, thus harming the way children practice language development, visual cues and socioemotional processing. However, peddlers of the mask mandates insisted that they would not effect the way children learn to speak or how they examine expressions/reactions.
Children from bilingual households make up a great component of those who have struggled in recognizing differences in multi-phonic speech presumably disappointing abuelitas all across the southern United States. Monolingual speakers don’t necessarily have to worry about this, since they are used to the same phonetic sounds comprised of the same letters with variations in mainly vowels. However, slight variations in the phonetics of letters between different languages have been much harder to identify for dual-language learners, as masks act as a subtle sound barrier. For example, the “D” in English, is instead pronounced with a hard “th” in Spanish, and sometimes, “dj” in Portuguese. The same can be said for the Arabic letters, “daal” (د) and “thaal” (ذ), which a typical English speaker may initially miss. The letter “V” in Castilian Spanish, when spoken hard enough, can sound very similar to the letter “B”, just as the letter “E” in French can be mistaken for some variation of our letter “U”. For young children, learning a single language is already a major challenge. They do not merely learn by listening to repetitive sounds, but also by observing the linguistic elements of speech from the way we place our tongues to the the expansion of our lips. The wearing of masks when communicating with young children has effectively blinded them from emulating the speech of adults around them. This, in combination with lack of social interaction, means that the generation of children born during the pandemic will have fallen uniquely behind in their speaking and auditory comprehension.
Masks worn for elongated periods of time have also been proven to create their own variety of health issues in which more restrictive materials meant to combat air-borne viruses may also mitigate oxygen flow leading to raised cortisol levels, oppressed lymphocytes and ultimately the diminishment of the body’s ability to fight off other illnesses. Masks sewn from material such as cotton, polyester, and other conventional fabrics have been criticized by medical experts across the board; some stating that the hot air and perspiration from our mouths have created a more humid breeding ground for bacteria just waiting to be inhaled. Moreover, criticisms about constant readjusting with unclean hands and the inability of cloth masks to block anything smaller than dirt, have all been popular disputes against the case for cloth masks.
Children across the nation, if they haven’t been completely missing from academic life, have had devastating results in math and reading proficiency since the pandemic took off especially among more disadvantaged communities. Data has been gathered during the past two years on several variables including the estimated months of learning lost, the quality of remote education, the share of adults who notice their children falling behind, general attendance, academic scores, dropout rates, school closures and more. Despite all efforts, we are currently in the worst period of virality to date. According to the CDC, all 50 states, with their various degrees of stringency, are at high rates of infection, surpassed only by other western nations.
Many Americans are worried about the politicization of the pandemic, with some even noting the weaponization of new emergency powers against individual freedoms such as the right to teach our children or have the choice in injecting foreign substances into our bodies. Given that we are experiencing constantly evolving viruses and routinely poor leadership, we know several things for certain- that there will be no return to “normal”, that the next generation will face unprecedented hardships and that it is up to us to do the research that our governments refuse to act on themselves.