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Evidence shows that screen time does not affect your child’s social skills, and loss of smell and loss of taste are strong Covid-19 symptoms

SINGAPORE (Apr 24): New US research has found that despite concerns that sitting alone with a smartphone could be affecting children’s social skills, the younger generation is just as skilled socially as the previous one. Carried out by researchers at The Ohio State University, the new study looked at data gathered from The Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, which follows children from kindergarten to fifth grade.

The researchers were able to look at data from the study on 19,150 children who had started kindergarten in 1998, six years before Facebook launched, as well as 13,400 students who had started kindergarten in 2010, the year when the first iPad was released. During the study, the children were assessed by their teachers six times and by parents at the beginning and end of kindergarten and the end of first grade.

The findings, published online in the American Journal of Sociology, showed that both groups of children were given similar ratings by teachers and parents on their interpersonal skills — which include their ability to form and maintain friendships and get along with people who are different from them — and on self-control, such as their ability to regulate their temper. In fact, the teachers’ evaluations showed that the 2010 group actually tended to have slightly higher ratings for interpersonal skills and self-control than the 1998 group.

“In virtually every comparison we made, either social skills stayed the same or actually went up modestly for the children born later,” says Douglas Downey, lead author of the study, “There’s very little evidence that screen exposure was problematic for the growth of social skills.” The findings also held true even after the researchers had taken into account, among other factors, family characteristics and screen time use, with children who had the highest level of exposure to screens still showing similar development in social skills compared to those with little screen exposure.

However, there was one exception, with the researchers finding that social skills were slightly lower for children who went on online gaming and social networking sites many times a day, although Downey points out that the effect was small. “Overall, we found very little evidence that the time spent on screens was hurting social skills for most children,” says Downey, who admitted he was at first surprised to see that screen time did not affect social skills. “There is a tendency for every generation at my age to start to have concerns about the younger generation,” he explains. “It is an old story. The introduction of telephones, automobiles and radio all led to moral panic among adults of the time because the technology allowed children to enjoy more autonomy.”

Downey adds that actually, the newer generation have to learn social skills to communicate successfully both online and offline. “You have to know how to communicate by email, on Facebook and Twitter, as well as face-to-face. We just looked at face-to-face social skills in this study, but future studies should look at digital social skills as well,” he says. Have you lost your sense of taste and smell? After reports that those infected with Covid-19 have experienced a loss of taste and smell, new US research has found evidence that individuals who lose these two senses are 10 times more likely to be infected with the virus.

Carried out by researchers at UC San Diego Health, the new study looked at survey responses from 262 patients reporting flu-like symptoms, 59 of whom had tested positive for Covid-19 and 203 who had tested negative. The findings, published in the journal International Forum of Allergy & Rhinology, showed that of the Covid-19-positive patients, 68% (50 out of the 59 participants) reported a loss of smell and 71% (42 out of 59) reported a loss of taste, compared to 16% (33 out of 203) and 17% (35 out of 203) of patients who had tested negative. Moreover, many of those who reported a loss of smell and taste also said that the loss was profound, not mild.

However, the good news is that most patients regained the two senses usually within two to four weeks. “Based on our study, if you have smell and taste loss, you are more than 10 times more likely to have Covid-19 infection than other causes of infection. The most common first sign of a Covid-19 infection remains fever, but fatigue and loss of smell and taste follow as other very common initial symptoms,” said study author Carol Yan, Doctor of Medicine.

“We know Covid-19 is an extremely contagious virus. This study supports the need to be aware of smell and taste loss as early signs of Covid-19.” “Our study not only showed that the high incidence of smell and taste is specific to Covid-19 infection, but we fortunately also found that for the majority of people, sensory recovery was generally rapid,” said Yan. “Among the Covid-19 patients with smell loss, more than 70% had reported improvement of smell at the time of survey and of those who hadn’t reported improvement, many had only been diagnosed recently.”

“It is our hope that with these findings, other institutions will follow suit and not only list smell and taste loss as a symptom of Covid-19, but use it as a screening measure for the virus across the world,” Yan said. Other known symptoms of Covid-19 include fever, fatigue, cough and difficulty in breathing. The researchers also noted that interestingly, they found that experiencing a sore throat was associated with testing negative for Covid-19