Dr. Lee agreed. "I think kids are very, very smart," he said. "You can find out who a person is by using information that is still available to them, the shape of their eyes, eyebrows, voice, and posture." Children will adapt quickly, he said, but teachers who wear masks should help them by wearing the same glasses, hairstyle, or maybe personalized masks or even signature clothing.
Regarding emotional communication, he suggested that teachers should emphasize their gestures and pay attention to their tones. "Make your voice more expressive, your gesture more expressive, your eyes more expressive," he said. Finally, he said, "As a teacher, I would slow down my speech, especially when interacting with younger ones, so that children can learn more from the auditory canal."
There's no evidence, said Dr. Chen said that children from cultures with much greater facial coverage are less able to recognize faces or emotions.
In Hong Kong and elsewhere in Asia, it is standard to wear masks to protect against illness or air pollution. Since there is always an adequate number of people in public who wear masks, “there is not culturally the same level of fear – not the urgency to see if wearing masks affects the development of children that we think of European counterparts and American colleagues have heard ”. Said Dr. Chen. People understand, she said, that children at home will see the full faces of parents and siblings.
Given the adaptability of children's brains, it seems reasonable to hope that one effect of the time spent by masked and masked people is that children actually improve their ability to read these other cues. Children may be "more sensitive to sound, more sensitive to a person's overall body language," said Dr. Chen.
"Children are very, very adaptable, more adaptable than us – they learn very quickly," said Dr. Lee. "I don't think parents should be too concerned."
Dr. Perri Klass is the author of the upcoming book, “A Good Time to Be Born: How Science and Public Health Gave Children a Future” on how our world has changed with the radical decline in infant and child mortality.