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The Reality of Covid-19 Is Hitting Teens Especially Hard

Author: Christopher Null

Null, Christopher. “The Reality of Covid-19 Is Hitting Teens Especially Hard.” Wired, Conde Nast, 6 Apr. 2020, www.wired.com/story/covid-19-is-hitting-teens-especially-hard/.

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A teenage girl watches a series on the bed in her room

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PHOTOGRAPH: CARLOS ALVAREZ/GETTY IMAGES
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JUST A FEW weeks ago, the conversation in my household revolved around one thing: Where my daughter was going to college. She’s a senior in high school, high-achieving, and very driven. We spent the fall slaving over college essays and applications, 11 in total. The wait to hear from the schools she applied to was agonizing for her, and even though today’s college admissions messaging is fully electronic, she would even bring in the mail at the end of each day—otherwise unheard of in our household—to see if there was something from a school waiting for her.

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Now all we talk about is Covid-19.

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May 17
2020 Ronata Ibrahim (May 17 2020 11:29AM) : Like it's all we know because it's all that being talked about. Every news outlet has become a slave to reporting on the pandemic, every mask wearing human out there, every quarantined family. The reality of the situation is that Covid-19 is our new lives more

It affects everything we do, decides what we can and can’t do. It here, it’s real

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The coronapocalypse has been devastating for us adults, but its impact on teenagers is arguably far greater. At age 48, I’ve seen a fair number of society’s ups and downs. I was born during Watergate, panicked about nuclear holocaust thanks to The Day After as a tween, and watched the first Gulf War unfold on the televisions in my college’s student union. Sure, I wasn’t standing in bread lines or facing the firebombing of my city, but the last 48 years have had their share of tragedy and upheaval.

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Zoe was born in 2002, a year after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Things were looking up at the time, and they’ve stayed pretty rosy by comparison. Yes, we had the invasion of Iraq, the spike in school shootings, climate change, the 2008 housing crisis, and #MeToo, but we also had an unprecedented explosion in both creativity and commerce. All of the tech services we now love, from Facebook to Netflix, got started in these years. Barack Obama was president—for eight years. The iPhone was invented, and they got Osama bin Laden.

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Even the election of Donald Trump couldn’t take much of the shine off the last two decades. As of 2019, our “Goldilocks economy” was seeing the lowest level of unemployment since 1969, minimal inflation, and a stock market at its all-time high. Not only was Zoe going to college, we were going to be able to pay for it and she was going to be able to get a job when she graduated.

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In the space of a few weeks, none of those things are certain any more, and it’s hitting her hard.

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But most of all, they are bored. God, how teens are bored. Many schools have hastily implemented online learning, but teens widely dismiss it as ineffective, at least for now. “Online schooling is mostly a joke,” Zoe says, “just to say that we ‘did school.’ I do maybe 30 minutes of work a day now. The Zoom chats are super unproductive, just a waste of time.”

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May 18
2020 Emily Leary (May 18 2020 2:07PM) : Disagree more

While her circumstances are probably different than mine, I disagree. There certainly are classes with much less work now. But as a whole, I don’t think online school is a joke. A majority of teachers are doing a wonderful job and giving us a similar workload to normal school. I think what you put into online school is what you’re going to get out of it.
Online school has a lot of benefits, but I really prefer in person classes.

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May 18
2020 Emma Wills (May 18 2020 3:02PM) : Whether Online School is Effective more

While my daily work load is more than 30 min, I agree that that online school is very ineffective. While virtual class and online assignments are not a joke, they are a waste of time in the long run. I am far more productive and diligent when working in an academic environment and I am not alone. Across America students are struggling with it. I was talking with my neighbor who is feed up online school for her kids. She argued that schools should have canceled school all together then extended the next academic year to compensate. I have to agree with her. The hassle of online school is too hard on parents, students, teachers and school administration. However, postponing 4th quarter would not be an option for seniors thus seniors are required to finish school in time for college. I disagree with you Emily, we are at a disadvantage no matter how much effort we pour into online classes. The traditional school experience is gone along with all of this benefits. Socializing between classes can helped relieve some of my stress from work. Additionally, I can’t communicate with my teachers effectively which is especially hard at the end of the semester when final are taken and grades are being finalized.

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Without hours and hours of daily structure, teens are left to fill virtually the entire day alone, and technology is not providing the answer. Netflix and Xbox can only get you so far.

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Every teen I spoke to cited how crushingly bored they had become in just a few days. Aiden (16, Alamo, California) says the boredom is causing him to “go crazy.” Jackson in South Carolina says: “It’s so bad it can disrupt my sleeping. If this lasts a lot longer, everyone will be so bored. We’re going to have to come up with a new way to do things.”

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There’s a lot of denial in the mix as well, though that is probably not unique to teens. The “taking it one day at a time” metaphor was also well-cited in my conversations.

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So how do you help a teen cope? My personal experience would suggest you can’t, that you are best off staying out of a teen’s way, but Ryan Fedoroff, National Director of Education at Newport Academy, a mental health treatment center for teens and young adults, offers some tips. She says, “Be compassionate and truly listen to your child when they speak about their worries and the fact that they are upset with activities being canceled. It’s important to validate their feelings during this time, even if they are disappointed and sad. Ask your child how you can support them through this time. It is important to not try and solve their problems when they are upset. Just show compassion, validate, and be present.”

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May 18
2020 Emma Wills (May 18 2020 3:18PM) : Living at home: How parents should help teens coping. [Edited] more

Something that I have been dealing with is a decline in my mental health. Initially transitioning to quarantine made it even harder to cope with my pre-existing problems. Nor did my parents try to make it easier. COVID-19 has already caused massive collateral damage and we still have TONS things consider right now. Time will tell how mental health patterns have and will change as a result of this pandemic. I predict healthy people, especially teens, will fall into depression and have increased anxiety.

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She also notes, and this is important, that kids watch adults for psychological cues. “If you are obsessively and overtly worried about coronavirus, or continuously mentioning how upset you are that their activities are canceled, your kids will likely have anxiety about it too. We all need to vent, but try to do it in a private place where your children can’t hear you.”

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Fedoroff also suggests trying to create as much structure as possible in a teen’s life: family meals, workouts, and reasonable “virtual learning time.” (Khan Academy is still an awesome online tool.) If graduation is canceled, you can have one at home on Zoom. Good news: Your kid is the valedictorian and gets to make a speech! Remember, this is an event that will define a teen’s outlook for the rest of their life, a virtual 9/11 for Gen-Z. Positivity is unilaterally a good thing wherever you can find it.

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Zoe does have a glimmer of optimism and hope underneath it all, as most teens do, as we all do. “I’m still hopeful that this is temporary,” she says. “I’m not ready to give up the last three months of school, the last three months of being a kid. I want to prepare for the worst, but that’s not me. If I think that way, I’ll fall apart.”

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Really, she just wants a little more time, a few weeks to finish her high school career strong and officially close the book on her adolescence. More than prom, more than graduation, more than a medal in track, it’s clear there’s one thing she wants more than anything: the chance to say goodbye.

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May 18
2020 Emily Leary (May 18 2020 2:03PM) : Response/Agreement more

I think the reason this whole thing has been so hard is how long we’ve been waiting for graduation.
All our lives people have said that graduating high school is important. We worked for 12 years, and now we don’t get what we’ve been looking forward to for that long. It’s the culmination of everything we’ve ever done so far. And we’ve lost it.
It also feels like we can’t complain in some ways, because there are people who have lost so much more. There are people losing their lives. There are people working everyday to keep us alive.

DMU Timestamp: March 26, 2020 18:18

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