Throughout 2020 and 2021, ever since the declared COVID-19 pandemic, government officials consistently have been inconsistent in their assessments and recommendations for public health. In August 2021, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) joined the ranks when they endorsed the CDC’s recommendation for masking.1
Since they did not want to be seen holding inconsistent positions, they removed years of information from their website that explained the importance of facial cues to early brain and child development. The removal of the content culminated August 12, 2021, with the fourth in a series of tweets, in which they said:2
"Babies and young children study faces, so you may worry that having masked caregivers would harm children’s language development. This concern is not supported by studies. Children will also use gestures and voice to indicate their feelings.
At the end of the tweet, they provided a link to an article on HealthyChildren.org3 that suggested “... when one sense is taken away, the others may be heightened.” The series of tweets was aimed at masking in general, stating:4
- Masks work to reduce the spread of COVID-19 among children
- Masks are a vital part of keeping kids safe at school this fall
- Masks do not compromise children’s breathing
- Being around adults wearing masks doesn’t delay babies’ speech or language development
Experts argue over the efficacy and necessity of masking a population that has minimal risk from the virus. You need look no further than the CDC’s website,5 which shows that children ages birth to 17 had a death rate of 0.08% in 2021 and 0.05% in 2020. Yet, it was the final statement — that masking doesn’t affect children’s development — that unleashed a reaction on Twitter from parents, speech therapists and physicians who heartedly disagreed.
American Academy of Pediatrics Caught in a Quandary
To support the unsubstantiated long-term use of masks, the AAP turned their back on years of research and their own information on the importance of facial cues with infants to protect and promote brain growth and development.
The organization removed significant portions of their website regarding early childhood development to make it work. Reuters6 asked why the content was removed the weekend after the tweets were published. The content is currently being transferred to another platform, according to the spokesperson.
A spokesperson told Reuters, “The AAP can confirm that our web content migration has nothing to do with AAP’s mask guidance.”7 They assured Reuters the content would be republished, but were unsure about the timeline; they expect it to be complete by the end of the year.
In other words, this well-funded and organized group is coincidentally “migrating” one key section of web content that curiously contradicts their new mask guidance, and planned this so it would take months to complete.
According to Reuters,8 any links to this content that come up in the search engine are now redirected to the AAP’s homepage. Not all of the content has been removed, as other organisations use AAP documents to help educate clients.
For example, the “Building ‘Piece' of Mind" pdf that was pulled as a resource on the AAP website9 is available on the Ohio Bold Beginning! Site and brand with Ohio Chapter AAP.10 You can also download the full document from an Internet archive.11
The now “migrated” document encourages parents to pay attention to their emotional responses to their children, since “Feelings are a language that your infant understands early in life.”12 Yet, without facial cues, it’s challenging for adults, much less children, to read and understand emotional reactions. In the migrated document, the AAP says:
“As your baby grows, social smiles lead to conversations. For example: When you smile, your infant will smile back … This ‘dance’ between you and your baby is fun for both of you. It is a great way to encourage your baby’s new skills as they appear. For this important dance to work, calmly and consistently meet your baby’s needs … and smile!”
But how is that supposed to work if your baby is staring at you and other adults who have two-thirds of their faces covered with masks? How do babies know you’re smiling if your entire face is covered up? In response to the AAP, Dr. James Todaro, who runs the website MedicineUncensored, tweeted:13
“AAP in 2018: 'How Do Infants Learn? Infants enjoy looking at you and hearing your voice. Facial expressions and faces are far more engaging than toys. Spend some time singing and laughing. Have fun with peek-aboo and touch, stroking, or touching.
AAP in 2021: 'Babies and young children study faces, so you may worry that having masked caregivers would harm children’s language development. This concern is not supported by studies. Other clues that young children use include gestures, tone of voice and gestures.'”
Did Pfizer’s Funding of the AAP Influence Their Mask Policy?
Shortly after the AAP took down their facial cue documents and posted their new masking recommendations for children, a retired chief of police questioned the AAP’s motives — and in a telling opinion piece for Law Enforcement Today,14 he revealed that Pfizer is one of the AAP’s largest funders.
Twitter users15 noticed it too, with several asking what would Pfizer’s funding have to do with the AAP’s mask recommendations. Finally, one person figured it out, saying, “perhaps the plan is to get parents so fed up with their children having to wear them they break down and get them the vax.”
In fact, the AAP itself linked vaccination to mandatory mask-wearing quite clearly when they talked with NBC news,16 which reported: “The AAP said universal masking is necessary because much of the student population is not vaccinated, and it's hard for schools to determine who is as new variants emerge that might spread more easily among children.”
When you consider that another COVID vaccine maker, Johnson & Johnson, is also a funder for the AAP — and that Dr. Anthony Fauci made the news September 9, 2021,17 saying that vaccines for children as young as 6 months may be ready as soon as November 2021 — the idea that the AAP would consider setting the stage for parents to come begging for a vaccine doesn’t sound so off the wall.
Not Just Children Are Affected
An AAP staffer was quoted in Live From Studio 6B,18 saying, “AAP recommends masks in schools and public settings to protect children. These documents are more about interactions between infants and their parents or primary caregiver, much of which will be in a home setting where masks are usually not needed.”
However, masking facial cues affects infants and young children in day care situations and when they are out of their home. This impacts “social referencing,” which the AAP finds important to child development and refers to the ability to read the face of a stranger.19
Research20 shows mothers have unique central nervous system responses when they first see the face of their newborn. These findings show the importance of facial cues for bonding mother-baby. However, comments in a thread on Twitter pointed out that infants and kids aren't the only ones who lack facial cues. Twitter user MDaly is a mother and teacher, who commented:21
“I teach English to students who are not native English speakers. Last year, their ability to communicate in English was severely affected due to wearing masks. I had to ask students to repeatedly speak up and repeat themselves which negatively affects their self-esteem as well.”
A letter to the editor in The BMJ22 expounds on the challenges faced by adults who are hearing impaired with mandatory masking. For those who have hearing loss, health care is difficult. This is especially true in emergency rooms where there is a high level of noise. Alexandra Dumitru is hearing impaired and commented:23
“Zero common sense. It’s tragic what our health institutions have become. First the CDC, now this — even adults benefit from seeing a full face. For someone with hearing loss, masks were a major problem. Kids copy adults; they need to see mouths move.”
Data Are Sparse for a Very Good Reason
The AAP stated that there were no studies to support the concern that baby’s and young children’s development would be impeded by the constant use of masks in the adults who care for them. Yet, as one person on Twitter said, “If you don’t study something, you can say there are no studies.”24
However, the data are sparse and there are no studies analyzing the effect of masking on young children because before 2020 it would never have passed an ethical review board. Imagine 40 children being gathered. Nearly 20 parents would have to wear masks every interaction with their children from birth. As a comparison group, the 20 remaining parents would wear masks when they had to interact with their children. This was a method that AAP used previously.
These children would be tested by psychiatrists and behavioral psychologists to determine if their brain development, language and recognition of facial cues is stunted after five years of abusive behaviour. And yet, the AAP would like us to believe that won’t happen — without testing infant development in an environment known to be detrimental, we cannot extrapolate the information and understand it would be detrimental.
In 1990, the world discovered a carefully guarded secret of the Romanian Communist Party’s leader, Nicolae Ceauşescu.25 After his execution the new government brought in Western psychologists and child specialists to help deal with the 170,000 children who were abandoned in orphanages where they received no interaction with adults.
Charles A. Nelson III, a professor of pediatrics and neuroscience at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital, recounts his introduction to the environment these children lived in. He recalled:26
“I walked into an institution in Bucharest one afternoon, and there was a small child standing there sobbing. The child was distraught and wet his pants. I asked, ‘What’s going on with that child?’ A worker said, ‘Well, his mother abandoned him this morning and he’s been like that all day.’ That was it. Nobody comforted him or took him home. That was my introduction.”
The children in the orphanages of Romania not only didn’t have “face time” with their caregivers, but also didn’t have any comfort or interaction. It’s not hard to imagine how an infant, who relies on cues from other people to learn and grow, could be stunted by having little exposure to facial expressions.
The Still Face Experiment
The horrific environment these children and young adults lived in was the largest human experiment in which children did not receive interaction from other humans. This was until 2020-2021 when children and infants were being taught to ignore facial cues. In this short video, you’ll see what happens during the “still face” experiment when the infant does not get a response from the mother.
It was demonstrated that infants can be affected by the emotions or non-emotional reactions of others. The COVID-19 pandemic has left infants and their children without visual facial cues. But, it is expected that the child will continue to have emotional interactions at the same level as before the mask mandates.
Studies have shown that children who are not emotionally available to their parents grow up with more difficulty trusting and managing their emotions.27 However, there has been no data before 2020 to determine if masking facial cues would cause children to grow up with the same issues.
Is it possible to recognize facial cues through masks?
After 2020, research has shown that adults and children struggle to identify emotion when masked. How this will affect overall child development and whether the children can “catch up” if mask mandates are ever removed, is yet to be determined.
For example, in one study28 published by the University of Wisconsin-Madison in December 2020, researchers engaged children ages 7 to 13 and showed them photos of people exhibiting six different emotions. The masks were not necessary, and the children correctly identified 66% of these emotions.29
However, when masks were in place, this dropped to between 18% and 28% for sadness, fear and anger. A second study30 in children ages 3 to 5 years demonstrated that the younger children had even more difficulty.
This was consistent with the past research that showed a face-mask could affect emotions comprehension. The mask had a greater effect on toddlers than it did for adults and older children.31
Similar studies have also been performed with adults. One study32 published in September 2020 with 41 healthy adults aged 18 to 87 years presented the participants with photos of six different expressions.
If the participants were not wearing masks for identification, their overall score was 89.5%. The performance of identifying emotions dropped by a significant amount when masks were used. A second study33 published in Scientific Reports in 2021, analyzed the effects of masking to measure emotion recognition and trust attribution in 122 adult men and women.
Standard masks were found to interfere with the two measures, making it difficult for researchers to locate individuals that they have already seen.
The data from 2020 has demonstrated that while masks are effective at masking emotions and slowing down virus spread, they may not be as efficient in slowing it. It is important to ask the question, "What will be the long-term effects on our emotional and psychological health as children are raised not having full access to facial cues?"