Pandemic puts children’s social intelligence at risk: experts

Jasmin Romero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 16 2021 03:57 PM

A child watches as a disinfection team prepares gear for an operation in Barangay West Crame, San Juan City on March 23, 2020. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA — "Linda," a 12-year-old student, has always been shy around people in her school.

But months into online learning, which Philippine schools implemented after in-person instruction was banned due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Linda admitted that she has become more aloof, refusing to participate in recitation in her virtual classes.

"Kapag recitation po, kahit alam ko ang sagot nahihiya po akong sumagot kasi baka mamaya pagtawanan po nila ako kasi di ko pa sila kakilala," Linda said in an interview with ABS-CBN News.

(During recitation, even though I know the answer to the question, I don't answer because I'm afraid my classmates will laugh at me since I don't know them.)

"Ces," mother of another student, said she is worried that her son has lost his opportunities to bond with other children because of the pandemic.

"'Di niya nashe-share ang talents niya. Nakaupo lang siya, 'di katulad na nasa school, maraming ginagawang activities. Puro computer na lang," said Ces.

(He isn't able to share his talents. He's always just sitting down, unlike in schools where he gets do a lot of activities. Now, he's just always in front of the computer.)

Psychologists and child development experts agree that the coronavirus pandemic has put children's social development at risk.

"Nade-develop ang social isolation on the part of the child kapag kulang sa interaction sa labas so may effect talaga ang pandemic, nagkakaroon ng risk sa social intelligence," said Maria Luz Estudillo, founder of the Headway School for Giftedness.

(Children develop social isolation when they lack interaction with the outside world so the pandemic really has an effect. There's a risk on the child's social intelligence.)

But it's not just teens who feel this social isolation because even children aged 5 experience it, too, Estudillo said.

Psychologist Honey Carandang said the pandemic has taken away opportunities for children to play outside, which is essential for their development.

"Malaki ang effect noon sa pag-develop ng ability to give and take, wait for their turn, to lose," Carandang said.

(That has a big effect on the development of a child's ability to give and take, wait for their turn, lose.)

"Play is the best way to destress children. The child has to play," she added.

Carandang said there should be a way for children to safely play outside.

"Kailangang pag-isipan ito. 'Di puwedeng hintayin ang vaccine to take effect," she said.

(We need to think about this. We can't just wait for the vaccine to take effect.)

Carandang advised parents to find ways for their children to play, either online or in their homes.

If the situation allows it, children can also play outside in parks with other kids, especially if barangays allow this in compliance with health protocols, Carandang said.

Estudillo also said parents must make time for children to help them sort out their feelings.

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