Author: Tarannum Rehal
Interview with Theertana Sivakumar Umadevi (4th Year BSc. Chemistry and Pre-Medical student at Trent University)
Undoubtedly, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on our regular routines and social lives. While for many students and individuals in the workforce, studying or working from home has become more convenient in terms of saving time on commuting and working at their own pace, it is less than ideal and certainly does not provide the same experience and opportunities as in person. A question one may wonder then is whether the pandemic has had a similarly negative impact on children that have been born and are growing up during the pandemic.
Recent studies in the United States have proposed lower IQ levels in terms of reduced verbal, motor, and overall cognition in children born during the COVID-19 pandemic compared to children born before the pandemic (The Guardian, 2021). In the past 10 years before the pandemic, children aged 3 months to 3 years of age averaged an IQ score of 100 on standardized tests, compared to a declined average IQ score of 78 for children born during the pandemic (The Guardian, 2021).
The study comprised a total of 672 children from Rhode Island of which 308 were born before January 2019, 188 were born after July 2020, and 176 were born between January 2019 and March 2020 (The Guardian, 2021). These children were mostly white, born full-term, and had no disabilities in their development.
While the underlying causes are still unknown, children born during the pandemic performed significantly lower on cognitive development tests compared to their slightly older participants. The suggested reasoning behind the poorer scores is the long periods of lockdowns that have resulted in closures of in-person attendance of (pre)schools, daycare programs, nurseries, parks and playgrounds, and other such environments that allow for children to interact with others outside of their homes. Furthermore, as many parents have been working from home, it has been proposed that the side effects of the pandemic on their routine have resulted in new stress as they must work and simultaneously care for their children in the same environment without much change of scenery. As the early years of childhood are most important in one’s social and cognitive development, children need to interact with people of various age groups, genders, and ethnic backgrounds to experience healthy and open-minded growth physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Although, it is undeniable that the pandemic has induced a negative impact on the developmental growth of children born particularly after March 2020 due to the drastically diminished level of social interaction, something to wonder about is the reliability of these studies. How exactly were the IQ levels of these children measured? How were these children sampled and asked to be participants in the study? Are the participating children from the same socioeconomic class? Would the suggested results be different if children of other races (i.e., South/ East Asian, Black, Indigenous, etc.) were participants of the study? What is the relevance of this study? These are some questions and thoughts that Theertana and I addressed and shared in our discussion on this study and supporting articles.
Theertana: Well, I agree with the study to a certain degree. Being brought up in the current socio-economic condition, staying at home and interacting with the same 2-3 people that live at the same address can decrease one’s ability to interact with strangers or other human beings aside from their family. This also co-relates with our intelligence and our school/ work lives for sure. The pandemic has not only affected our social skills but also our ability to retain academic information from school since it is conducted via the Internet. Children born during the pandemic or entering school (preschool or kindergarten) during the pandemic will face difficulty when being taught in school, not just because of the parents not having the time to manage them and their at-home work but also because it will be much harder for teachers to contain the children’s attention span.
Kids are focused on a computer or iPad screen for a better part of 8 hours during the day just trying to pay attention to the person on the opposite end of the screen trying to educate them. Many kids barely have the ability to focus and retain information while at school let alone at the comfort of their own home where they literally just roll out of bed and eat breakfast while in class. When we think of home we think of comfort and a place of relaxation and much of this applies to children as well. Having had school at home with parents who also work from home, nobody is physically there to constantly make sure that the children are, in fact, attending their classes, not dozing off in the middle of the class, and doing their assigned school work. Moreover, though the study presents valid points, due to the majority of the participating children being of Caucasian descent, we can’t say that all children are taught and disciplined the same way. Culture, race, and familial variances are huge factors that influence how children develop personally and academically. If the research was conducted with a wide variety of racial backgrounds, sex/gender, family composition, and socio-economic status and culture, the outcome would likely be different.
I completely agree with Theertana. We commonly associate home with comfort and relaxation, not work, and spending the past 2 years working and studying almost completely from home has posed a sense of “laziness” or lethargicness in us. Imagine how unfamiliar children that are born during the pandemic probably are with the normal routine and structure of school and maintenance of their social lives.
Although this study is yet to be peer-reviewed, the idea is not to scare parents or make them think their children are intellectually challenged, but to direct their attention on how they can make their children’s early years more fulfilling during a pandemic. Some ways to ensure healthy mental and social growth during the pandemic include avoiding going on your phones and devices when you get free time and instead spend that time with your children, scheduling video calls with friends and relatives, and encourage children to do the same kind of activities they normally would in person with their friends (at school) such as playing board games and doing puzzles.
Most importantly, though it might be difficult to compartmentalize professional and personal lives while working and relaxing in the same environment, be patient with one another and try sticking to schedules and areas that are specific for working or studying and relaxing. For example, avoid working or studying in your bedroom; when one should be working, they’ll be thinking about sleeping, and when one should be sleeping, they’ll instead be thinking about school or work.
Thank you, Theertana for being a part of this article, I really appreciated and enjoyed sharing my opinions and thoughts with you and hearing yours!