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As schools begin to make plans for this upcoming school year, many of them include plans for kids to wear masks.
Schools around the country are starting to put out the plans that they have for this next school year. For some districts, that means shortened weeks and partial days of attending schools. For others, it means additional school work to be done at home. And for others there may be no change in the actual school schedule.
What does seem to be pretty consistent across all plans is for kids to wear masks in some form or another. While the mask wearing requirement may not be an actual requirement, or it may not be something that has to be done all day long, they are recommended for multiple different scenarios at school.
How did we get here?
Before we look at kids wearing masks, let’s step back and look how we got to our current situation. While we can’t change the past, it can help us to understand the current situation we find ourselves in.
At the beginning of 2020, news about Coronavirus was starting to make headlines out of Asia as China began locking down. By the end of March 2020, the United States had started shutting down parts of its economy and telling people to social distance at home. Around this time, schools throughout the country shutdown and went into an online learning environment very abruptly. Online learning lasted through the end of the 2019-2020 school year.
The shutdowns in March 2020 that occurred were largely due to the unknowns of the virus, how it spread, who was at risk, and several other issues. School districts closed down quickly at the request of government officials, and in an effort to try to keep people safe.
Over the next several months a lot has been learned about the virus, but there is still a lot of unknown. Schools have many reasons to open back up in the fall, and many to stay closed with what they now know. They are making a decision that will not be able to please everyone, no matter how they choose.
Further complicating decisions are recent increases in cases throughout many states in the United States. Many places are seeing very large increases in the number of people that have contracted the virus.
One learning that has come out of the last several months is that wearing masks helps to slow the spread of the virus. This is not an opinion or political statement. The CDC has confirmed that a simple cloth mask will help to slow the spread of disease. Anyone over the age of 2 is encouraged to wear a mask.
Many state and city governments across the country are also encouraging citizens to wear masks at the current time where social distancing is not possible. The scientific evidence shows that wearing a mask is an effective way to keep others safe, and to a lesser extent keep you safe.
While there are stores and restaurants that are requiring you to wear a mask, most places do not require a mask to be worn. It is generally encouraged that you do, and most employees are wearing masks, but most places are not enforcing a strict mask adherence. It’s up to each individual to decide whether they wear a mask or not.
Can a child wear a mask?
There have been two major complaints that are going around about kids wearing masks in school. The first one is that kids should not have to wear masks. This is the same argument that many people are making for themselves about wearing masks - it encroaches on their freedom and they won’t do it.
Ultimately, this is a decision that you have to make. If you refuse to wear a mask, and refuse to let your child wear a mask, that is your decision and responsibility. There is plenty of literature out there to show why that is a bad decision, and we won’t rehash it here. As a parent, I would encourage you to research more about the reasons for wearing a mask and how it can help to keep more than just your kids safe.
The other common objection about kids wearing masks is that they won’t or can’t do it. The mask won’t stay on for more than five minutes, it will be thrown at other kids, and similar such arguments. While this may seem like it’s the case, it may not actually be true. Your kids may surprise you.
The first thing that you should do is make sure you're wearing your own mask. Wearing a mask when out in public is a simple act, and when your child sees you wearing one, they'll be more inclined to do so. If you complain about it, or make a big issue of it, your child will likely do the same.
If the decision for a child is to stay at home for school this upcoming school year, or having to wear a mask and go to school to be with friends and learn with others, most kids would choose the option to wear a mask. Wearing a mask is only a minor inconvenience for most children in comparison to being able to see peers that are their same age.
My own son has been playing with the neighbor kids for the past several weeks. There are two rules if he wants to play with them. The first is that they can only play outside, and the second is that they wear a mask. Given the choice of being inside without a mask, or being outside with friends while wearing a mask, the mask is an easy option. My son can wear his mask for 3 to 4 hours straight without taking it off or touching it - and while he may not have been able to wear it that long right from the start, he certainly had no real issue wearing it from the start.
Kids are fairly adaptable creatures. If you tell them that wearing a mask is a bad thing and they shouldn’t do it, then they’ll believe and listen to you. If you tell them that wearing a mask is a safe thing to do to keep them and others safe, and that they should wear it in order to go back to school, most kids will have no issues with that. They’ll gladly put on a mask in order to spend time with friends and peers, even if it means they’re at school.
Kids aren’t going to be perfect with wearing masks - there’s no question about that. However, if parents will encourage their kids to wear masks, and tell them the reasons why (and not just that you have to), the upcoming school year will be much easier and safer for everyone involved. Kids can wear masks, even the younger kids. We’re all in this together.