By Eve Nevelos, Editorial Staff, ‘24

Current standards established by the CDC and other prominent public health networks recommend that all children over 2 years of age, with few exceptions and regardless of vaccination status, should wear masks. Kids under 2 are not encouraged to wear masks because of suffocation risk – the only currently globally agreed upon policy in regards to masking kids. The World Health Organization recommends that all children over age 6 wear a mask in high transmission regions and indoors. There is no clear consensus thus far in the debate that has risen over the necessity of such young children wearing masks.

The Case for Youth Masking

Although there have been very few studies that have looked into youth masking, the few that have been conducted found that there were no negative physical effects of mask wearing on children. Mask wearing is an easy way to protect children from contracting or spreading Covid-19. Covid-19 cases in children have risen by 32% between the 2 weeks of November 15 and November 29.

Most children who contract Covid-19 will only come down with a mild cold, however, some may develop MIS-C (multisystem inflammatory syndrome), where key organs become inflamed and may shut down. MIS-C can be life-threatening. England’s UCL reports that 1 in 50,000 children who contract Covid-19 end up in the ICU and 1 in 500,000 die. 

According to a CDC study amongst 169 Georgian elementary schools, “COVID-19 incidence was 37% lower in schools that required teachers and staff members to use masks and 39% lower in schools that improved ventilation.”

In addition to the physical health benefits, parents of young children attending school tend to find peace of mind knowing that their kids are protected from Covid-19. Some children find it enjoyable to choose a fun patterned mask that suits their personality and others feel more mature, following the example that their mask-wearing parents have set. 

Most children are able to easily adapt to situations quickly. Being eighteen months into the pandemic, masks have become a part of their daily routine. In many ways, masks are similar to seat belts – a simple life-saving thing that can be uncomfortable at times, but ultimately the benefits outweigh the slight discomfort. 

The Case Against Youth Masking

Some pediatric psychologists worry that because children can’t see the bottom half of their peers’ faces, they will have trouble recognizing emotions like sadness, happiness, and anger. Experts currently recommend that parents spend an additional ten minutes a day focusing on facial expressions with their child if under age 6. 

Along with potential emotional development issues, linguistic development may suffer in this generation of youngsters. In early elementary school, children learn how to pronounce sounds like “th” and “pl” by looking at a teacher’s mouth movements. These tricky sounds can be difficult to learn with a mask in the way.

Keeping classrooms well ventilated and utilizing plexiglass screens along with consistent hand washing and social distancing may be more beneficial for children in school. Seeing others’ faces for both of the aforementioned reasons is valuable and important for development. Some children have become reluctant to attend school on the basis that mask wearing is uncomfortable and can make them feel isolated despite being in a busy environment. 

So-called ‘maskne’ – acne that occurs because of prolonged mask wearing – has the potential to develop into a staph infection. There is a low chance of this occurring, but it is still perfectly possible. Dermatitis and eczema may also develop. Consistent face washing, cleaning reusable masks, and using a proper skincare routine can reduce the risk of these issues.

The NIH has published a study which reports that for children under the age of 10 wearing masks may stimulate ear protrusion. Splints, patches, and bands may be used to fix this issue long-term if needed/wanted.