Technology has made lockdown bearable; I will not deny it. Technology has made it possible for schools and universities to continue imparting information. Even preschoolers are attending online classes! The quest for knowledge continues, thanks to screens of various sizes.
My nephews and nieces are attending online classes and from what I gather they somehow have managed to continue classroom pranks too! Barging in on each other’s on-line classes, muting the teacher, sending private jokes on phones and sharing giggles and so the shenanigans continue! Sounds almost like a regular classroom, doesn’t it?
What’s a miss then? TOUCH.
Remember Harlow’s experiment with baby monkeys? For many years’ psychologists believed that babies developed an attachment with their mothers because they provided food. Harlow (and many others) argued that this perspective was limiting and it undermined the importance of comfort, companionship and love in promoting healthy development. Harlow’s baby monkeys were subjected to two surrogate mothers. One was made of wire and provided food; other was made of soft fabric. Most of the baby monkeys spent time with the mother made from soft fabric and in case of unsure situations they turned to the cuddly mother for comfort and reassurance. Most would go to the wire surrogate with milk only to feed.

Social grooming is an important behaviour observed in all social animals, including humans. Social grooming plays an important role in establishing relationships, hierarchy and bonds among animals who live within close proximity.

What did we learn from studies conducted in the orphanages of Romania; touch is crucial for survival. A study of teens concluded that teens who enjoyed a positive and comforting touch from significant others were less aggressive compared to the teens who didn’t have this privilege. Studies of the elderly also have indicated the importance of touch. Touch is important not only for social-emotional development but science has proved that touch can help reduce stress and improve immunity!
Mammals are hardwired to touch. Sapiens can’t survive without attachment and for attachment touch is crucial. Families play a vital role in the development of attachment in young children but this is just a beginning. As children grow older, they learn to bond and attach with others in society.
Education establishments do a lot more than impart knowledge. It is the schools and universities where young ones’ find friendships; friendships that last a lifetime. In the play, children touch each other; this positive touch decreases barriers and enhances communication. In the classroom, positive, contingent touch from teachers has been demonstrated to increase on-task behavior and de-crease disruptive behavior in young children. Teenagers who are embarrassed by a hug from their mum, seek the sensation of touch from peers. Secret handshakes and high-fives are a means to belong and bond at this crucial age.

We truly are witnessing unprecedented times. Today touch is the culprit; the same touch we all know is necessary for survival, is under the scanner! We are teaching the young and the old to keep a distance; for now, rightfully so.

Will we ever tread back to the known way of living? Will we continue to maintain distance? Will we continue to stare at touch with suspicions? Will the corridors of schools and universities never witness hugs, high fives, handshakes, friendly peck on cheeks, boisterous play, fist bumps? I certainly hope not.

Before this quarantine ends, educators and education institutes, need to figure out how are we going to facilitate a safe and positive touch. We need to revisit our policy on touch. Because, TOUCH MATTERS!

 

 

References:
https://www.psychologicalscience.org/publications/observer/obsonline/harlows-classic-studies-revealed-the-importance-of-maternal-contact.html – Harlow’s Classic Studies Revealed the Importance of Maternal Contact
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2865952/ – The importance of touch in development
https://reader.elsevier.com/reader/sd/pii/S1878929317301962?token=68CD564456BB458CA211088F9D269A66A05E3736A252432773B3640ADD7EA4161FF53D905FDD2ED48E32DA52659B9FAB -Social touch and human development

PC – image is taken from chrome