Keeping children in masks all day is a perfectly appropriate tactic for combatting the coronavirus, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
In a series of tweets on Thursday, the organization that previously urged people to respect a child’s preferred gender argued that masks have virtually no negative effect on a child’s development, dismissing parental concerns as being either overblown or nonexistent.
“Research shows that schools where children and adults are consistently masked are effective in preventing the transmission of COVID-19,” the AAP
claimed. “COVID remains a serious threat to children’s health. Universal masking can help make in-person learning safe this fall.”
After dismissing claims that masks do not minimize oxygen intake, the AAP then addressed concerns that masks negatively affect a child’s social development. According to the AAP, children are perfectly capable of learning complex communication like language and non-verbal expressions from masked adults. The AAP cited no evidence to support this highly charged claim and simply stated that “no studies” show it has a negative effect on children.
“Babies and young children study faces, so you may worry that having masked caregivers would harm children’s language development,” it said. “There are no studies to support this concern. Young children will use other clues like gestures and tone of voice.”
Contrary to the AAP’s assuredness,
Scientific American magazine argued in February that masks can be “detrimental to babies’ speech and language development”:
Faces are a complex and rich source of social, emotional and linguistic signals. We rely on all of these signals to communicate with one another through a complex and dynamic dance that depends on each partner being able to read the other’s signals. Interestingly, even when we can see whole faces, we often have trouble telling what other people are feeling. For instance, as the psychologist Lisa Feldman Barrett has noted, we can interpret a smile as meaning “I’m happy,” “I like you” or “I’m embarrassed”. So, seeing partially visible faces robs us of a plethora of linguistic signals that are essential for communication.
While it may not be entirely false for the AAP to claim that masks have only a benign effect on a child’s development, the evidence remains inconclusive and cannot be accepted as an undisputed scientific fact given the topic’s ongoing and robust debate.
People on social media did not respond kindly to the AAP’s claim:
In 2018, the AAP also argued that doctors and parents should affirm a child’s transgender identity irrespective of their biological sex.
“In a policy statement titled ‘Ensuring Comprehensive Care and Support for Transgender and Gender-Diverse Children and Adolescents,’ the group counsels ‘gender-affirming’ health care for minors who do not identify with their birth sex,” Breitbart News reported at the time.
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