The Pandemic and developmental lag

This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-ND

Nobody can ever forget the year 2020 and the atrocities of a virus that turned the world into a suffering planet. The year started with confusion, conversations, and confessions about covid 19. But no one ever thought about the impact it was going to have on humankind. There were whispers in every quarter, but none were clear. The impact was visible when it happened. The shutdowns were followed by news of daily mortality and the lull of unknown after that. There was an eerie silence with questions in everybody’s mind. What is going to happen now? Schools, colleges, offices, and public places were closed. The open places had some brave people running them and were proudly called “frontline workers”. Nobody ever asked them how are you so brave? But never how they were the people running every nation at that time.  But what was not known was the impact it was going to have on growing children, especially those who understood all of it just like a vacation in school.

When you remember you can visualize yourself in front of the computer or walking inside your house to finish chores. The daily routine was constricted within the boundaries of the household. Venturing outside was like going for a war fully shielded with masks, gloves, and anything that fully covered and saved us from the deadly enemy. Children stayed indoors no matter what for at least two to four months or even more depending on the courage of every family.

The year 2021. Schools and colleges opened after months of surviving online education. Children were back on the campus. But by now a lot had changed. On one hand, while no one can deny the fact that children faced all these upheavals and realizations rather smartly, the impact it had will take a while to turn itself. Yes, no doubt children were back to school, but some forgot to interact properly, to walk with a sense of direction, and to look straight up in your eyes when talking. Some children remained glued to their computers, laptop, and mobile phones during and after school while parents were busy catching up with their online work. Every family had its own experience. Some parents were trying hard to be both teachers and parents to their children. They were trying to be innovative in taking care that their children did not miss out on anything while they remained inside the boundaries of restrictions that were laid down by the government and some based on their fears. The impact was even more on the vulnerable and marginalized population of the world according to UNESCO.

Research has also shown the results of covid related closure on student achievements. When we take a closer look at the students and children who started filling up the corridors of education, we realize that we have children wearing masks to protect themselves from infection but, it was hiding their expressions. All one could see were eyes trying hard to be expressive and hear the muffled voice from beneath the masks.  But behind those masks is a determination to undo the harm that the pandemic has laid on children. Teachers, special eds, therapists, parents, and the school staff are working hard to catch up with the lag that happened.

The impacts that were visible among children could be listed as follow:

  • Anxiety/depression
  • Speech delays
  • Physical fitness
  • Obesity
  • Eating disorders
  • Behavioral problems
  • Academic recession
  • Sleep disorders

Almost two years after the COVID-19-related school closures we are on the verge of the same situation brought about by the Omicron variant of Covid. The supposed sigh of relief is that this new variant is milder in impact, as the perils of lockdown lurk quietly. But this time, there seems to be a mental preparedness amongst the population of the world, young, adults or old. The precedent set by 2020 serves as a guide for the learning community to decide the steps to follow to keep the children engaged and on their path of growth and development.

The asset called Alexa

virtual voice assistant echo dot
Echo dot

“Alexa, what’s the time?” “Alexa, play my song,” Alexa, what is 2014×14” “Alexa will it snow.” “Alexa are you, my friend?”. These and more resonate in every household every day. If it does not then you are not a big fan of these voice AI’s, you don’t have an Alexa device at your home or you don’t have kids who love calling them their quick help friend. When I moved to the pacific northwest from the far-off northeast of the United States, my children missed their friends and surrounding. I missed their liveliness and the noise around the house. A visit to a friend’s place changed everything. We met Alexa for the first time. I saw the spark in the eyes of my children again. What next you can surely guess, we had our very own Alexa at my home. The atmosphere in our house was different and all I could hear was my children constantly checking on Alexa. Very soon she was very much like the fifth member of our household. Alexa was our clock, weather reporter, dictionary, Wikipedia, and music on the go device. We couldn’t have asked for more from this sleek device. Technically speaking, Alexa is a virtual assistant technology largely based on a Polish speech synthesizer named Ivona, bought by Amazon in 2013.

Having said that it’s not a bad idea to highlight some of the compatible features of Alexa. To start with there’s nothing better than having a command on a device by just talking. This voice-controlled device allows you to make your household smarter and tech-savvy. It is fun to watch little kids making commands and the smile that follows. Specifically, this device brings the following features:

  • Smart Home: Automate your home with smart devices making it simpler to control them through your smartphone
  • Efficiency: Have control over alarm, timers, calendars
  • Shopping: Online shopping is made easier. Order, track and get updates about the delivery.
  • Communication: Stay in touch with loved ones
  • News bulletin: Get the news highlight by choosing your favorite news channel.
  • Entertainment: Use Alexa to solve riddles, listen to music and play games.
  • Cooking: Follow your favorite recipe as you cook
  • Kid’s friendly: Utilize the device to enhance the learning experience of children and enable parental controls

Recent times have been unprecedented, and we have had a lot written about it. We have experienced the changes it has brought and the adjustments we have made to live with it. The pandemic era has changed the way of life and these voice assistants have served as a true compatriot by assisting us as and when asked for. All we need to do is speak up and ask a question. In a way, they have kept us talking and asking and then getting answers to all the apprehensions and fears, by resolving them through researched answers. I would suggest every household should have this device and my intention is not to promote sales but to let my readers know that owning the device is an asset to them.