The pandemic has brought about huge disruptions in normal life for humanity as a whole. Alongside health concerns, another important question that has risen, especially for parents, is whether the COVID-19 pandemic socially stunt their child.
The pandemic has brought about a worldwide lockdown state, and children’s interactions with other humans have become limited to that of their immediate family, and any pets, if lucky.
According to Maslow’s infamous list of basic needs, humans are inherently social creatures and find it difficult to develop to their full potential without interacting with one other. Especially during one’s childhood, social lives take on a higher significance in their development.
Peer interactions and relationships are how kids learn not only about cooperation, trust, loyalty and support, but also about themselves, understanding and expressing their own emotions, making well thought out decisions, coping with challenges and accepting responsibility.
The two main sources of social interaction, that of a child’s immediate neighborhood and the child’s school, have been snatched away from their lives due to the pandemic. As a result, children are not only missing classes, but are also missing simple everyday interactions like that of walking to class together, eating lunch together, playing and creating together.
Lack of social interaction is creating a domino effect on children across the world. This isolation is not only creating a deterioration in social skills, but also, when children are asked these days about how they feel, the most common answers received are ‘bored’ and ‘lonely’. There is a disruption in the child’s cognitive and emotional stability which could in turn create a harmful effect on the child’s mental health. This further contributes to the lack of overall development in the child.
In response to this, the online learning industry has definitely spotted the challenge, and is focused on continuing school lessons to the highest extent possible. But, of course, the question arises to whether the children are able to socially develop with this limited virtual interaction.
Several tactics have been adopted globally by parents and teachers alike to get children to connect with their peers. Virtual play dates and handwritten letters are all the rage now. Schools are even looking to hold their otherwise on-ground festivals online.
It is important for educational institutions to not only focus on textbook learning via online classes, but also make it their duty to incorporate other skills in the curriculum, especially the ones being missed out on at the moment. Tools like Zoom, Padlet, etc. are great platforms to encourage collaborative learning where children can come together as a community to engage, learn and create.
Having regular, novel and constantly evolving ideas for interactions with their students, and creating safe spaces for them to express themselves among other peers, is key to ensure social development of the child.
Children are constantly adapting to changing scenarios, so, the most important aspect to look into as adults who play a role in the child’s life would be reassuring the child of his / her safety and creating a routine in their life, throughout the pandemic. Providing them with virtual options to engage in social interactions, while being mindful of other elements like ensuring healthy conversation and maintaining cyber security, is essential. It is important to not only look into the classes a child attends, but also cater to the child’s social needs in order for them to develop in a holistic manner.
(The writers are Co-founders at QShala.)
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