Masking emotions: Here's how children show signs of mask dependence

ByZarafshan Shiraz, Delhi
Jan 22, 2023 03:48 PM IST

Psychiatrists concerned as children show signs of mask dependence after Covid-19. Here's all you need to know about kids masking emotions

Face masks are now frequently used during acute infection occurrences, which creates the issue of people being unable to read the emotions of others while the empirical research on face masks primarily uses adult data, ignoring, for instance, schoolchildren who are heavily reliant on successful nonverbal communication. The face mask would unquestionably serve as a symbol or icon for the previous year where face masks have indeed taken on a symbolic role in the Covid-19 pandemic and this makes sense because using a face mask lessens the risk of contracting the virus from others as well as transmitting it, according to all available scientific data.

Masking emotions: Here's how children show signs of mask dependence (Daisy Anderson)
Masking emotions: Here's how children show signs of mask dependence (Daisy Anderson)

There are a variety of reasons why it is unlikely that we will be having mask-burning celebrations very soon even though it prevents us from showing symptoms ourselves but the situation is a little different among psychiatrists. In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Tushar Parikh, Chief Consultant Neonatologist and Paediatrician at Motherhood Hospital in Pune's Kharadi, talked about developing social and emotional skills and said, “The emotional side is more essential. The first thing lost with a mask, he observes, is the ability to see a grin. There is a lot of implicit communication back and forth between instructor and child in school settings. If you impede this continual exchange, you will undoubtedly obstruct effective instruction.”

He added, “The capacity to develop social relationships is related to fears as well. Masks make it harder to recognise faces and emotions, including—or even more—among the youngest people. There is additional evidence to suggest that reading others' emotional expressions while wearing a mask isn't always impossible or even difficult. Researchers showed pictures of humans posing for various emotional expressions to kids aged 7 to 13 years old. Surgical masks, sunglasses or no facial protection were all shown on the faces. Whether the face was hidden by a mask, sunglasses or nothing at all, the kids were always able to recognise the emotions.”

Highlighting that it is crucial to recognise that youngsters do in fact learn information from adults' expressions, he explained, "When a situation is ambiguous, children, and newborns in particular, will occasionally turn to a parent's face for guidance—a behaviour known as "social reference" by psychologists. The use of masks is not going away any time soon. There is some studies that could allay your concerns, even if science is moving a little slowly and there isn't much direct work on how kids react to individuals wearing masks. We do not know the long term effects of masking on social and behavioural development of kids."

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