There is an urgent need for schools to open. We know that even with the new variants, children do not play a major role in the spread of the infection and are more contaminated by adults than by contaminants. It’s also easy to verify that the peak of infections had no correlation with school closings and that even if they stayed open, the numbers would keep falling, as it turns out here in Spain what keeps schools open and the numbers you have also fallen sharply – and in the vast majority of European countries where the number of open schools has also fallen.
Portugal currently has the strictest policies on children. There are few countries that have closed schools for as long as we have, and in the vast majority the rules for the 1st and 2nd cycle are stricter.
That is why it seems unacceptable to me to think about even stricter measures. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend not wearing a mask before the age of 12 and in schools. caused by the new variants even after the revision of the rules. Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, England, Switzerland, Ireland, Latvia and Belgium (with the highest number of deaths per million) are among the majority of countries that recommend masks only after 12 years if removal is impossible and that has kept the schools mostly open, some of which have barely closed.
Why are the effects of wearing a mask on children different from those on adults? First, because children naturally find it harder to control impulses, they move the mask much harder, which increases the likelihood of contamination. Then because the children are still developing.
We all need to read other people’s faces for safety advisories. If this mechanism is a little more sophisticated in adults, it is still immature in children, so they will need more information to gather these clues. When we cannot do this reading, we are more easily on alert, and research shows that it is easier to interpret neutral expressions as negative. This can lead to difficulties in relationship, adjustment, and developing the ability to read the emotions, which are fundamental to socialization and empathy.
A study of people who had botox injections less than 24 hours ago and who suffered from mild facial paralysis showed that they were less able to adjust to the emotions of others, that is, feel empathy, because they were not in the They were able to imitate the facial expressions they saw associated with these emotions. As adults we will be able to recover from these difficulties at some point, but we cannot be so sure which children and young people have opportunities to develop these skills that cannot be overlooked, at the risk of these insights never occurring .
There are studies that show that reading emotions is hindered by the mask. In many countries, according to the CDC, teachers are advised to take them off at times of the day when it is possible to keep their distance. In many countries, adults are not recommended to wear masks in day care centers and kindergartens. It has also been shown that adult use of the mask can interfere with language development in children as they need to read their lips for that development to take place.
At a time when the numbers are falling across Europe, children don’t need stricter rules. The Assim Não é Escola movement has filed a petition collecting more than seven thousand signatures, rightly calling for the rules to be smoothed. This emerges from an article that I signed together with several colleagues and other specialists in the PÚBLICO newspaper and the occasion for this was an open letter to the Order of Portuguese Psychologists (OPP), which was and was signed by almost 200 colleagues was the basis of this movement. The OPP also wrote to Directorate General Health last year in an open letter asking for the rules to be relaxed.
However, since this did not happen, it is important to realize that children need compensation for everything they have gone through. A group of English experts came together to demand that children have more free play time this summer as this is the main way children can get rid of stress. By playing freely in the open air and being allowed to take risks, children develop, get to know themselves and the world, release tension and have the opportunity to calibrate their alarm system to better cope with challenges. Children today have to play more than ever. But in order to play, children must also have some degree of freedom, and there cannot be an obsessive concern for safety. That obsessive concern extends to the use of a mask. Because in order for the child to get used to it, they have to control their impulses in order to want to move them away from their face when they get hot or itchy, or to breathe better when they are walking or simply because they are bothered at some point.
This impulse control can only be done in two ways: or through the maturation of the prefrontal cortex, which gives the child neurological support so that this possibility is within their natural abilities and begins around the age of six but not until around the age of six Years ending 24 or 25; or out of fear – if we scare a child enough with the consequences of their actions, their alarm system is responsible and this enables them to control some impulses. It turns out that this activation of the alarm system comes at a very high price. The Unwanted Childhood Experiences Study analyzed the childhood experiences of approximately 17,000 adults and showed that childhood toxic stress is related to all kinds of adult diseases and disorders, from drug addiction or depression to obesity and heart or lung problems.
It is true that children adapt to outdoor conditions faster than adults because their brains are more malleable. However, this is both an advantage and a disadvantage. Because it means that everything has more influence at this stage. Unfortunately, I have seen many children who seem perfectly adapted to the use of the mask, but what we don’t see is what is happening inside them for that adaptation to take place. And what we don’t see are the consequences of this adaptation for their development. We already know that the levels of anxiety and depression in children and adolescents have brutally increased. And suicide attempts. So it’s time to try to minimize the damage and stop creating.
We urgently need to recognize that certain measures have an emotional cost. And that these costs can also lead to death. Not immediately, but in the long term. We can no longer calculate and follow models in which the emotional costs of each measure are ignored. We do not have the right to throw away everything that is known about what is important for the good development of children and young people. And we have no right to ask them to adapt any more. We have no right to pledge your future any longer and prevent it from developing well. Schools are opened, but not at any cost so as not to send children to places with stricter rules than prison. Schools are open, yes, but so that they are a place where children can play and feel safe from an emotional point of view.