In the time of coronavirus, traditional hallmarks of the high school experience disappeared. No graduations for the Class of 2020. No proms and no sport activities to participate in or watch . Schools moved to remote learning.
Many teens I talked to feel robbed of memories they were supposed to make in these formative high school years. Prom and graduation are integral parts of what makes all of the work pay off. Now, that’s been taken away.
Adolescence is the time when young people start to piece together who they are, or at least who they’ll be right now. Many of the pieces lost to the virus. The effects of the pandemic have teens feeling angry, anxious and depressed.
It’s hard enough being a teenager on a good day. But the conditions that accompany social distancing may exacerbate the painful parts of adolescence to the point of crisis. Adolescents typically have a heightened reactivity to stress. This is the result of hormonal fluctuations and changes in brain development.
All this change is overwhelming. The autonomy and independence that teens crave is next to impossible to achieve when most places, besides their own homes, are or have been off limits.
This period of isolation has caused social reorientation for teens. Typically, teens spend a sizable chunk of their days at school. They tune into their peers on whom they rely to form their own feelings and opinions. Now they’re tuning in (or out) to the adults with whom they live with. Teens are considered digital natives and therefore are likely better at navigating virtual friendships. But, they’re still missing the vital, in-person benefits of relationships.
Traumatic national events, while rare, can move teens in subtle ways and gradually erase their sense of self.
Most teens today weren’t born at the time of the 9/11 attack. But they’ve already lived through personal traumas and collective ones, notably gun violence in schools.
The emotional turbulence of teen life makes them more susceptible to depression and anxiety. The National Alliance on Mental Illness says 50% of mental illnesses develop by age 14 and 75% develop by age 24.
Although it’s far too early to measure the impact of the pandemic on teens in terms of their mental health and academic achievement, the effects could last a long time. Many teenagers could emerge from this time more resilient than they knew they could be.
There are many effective treatments for depression such as psychological treatments. They include cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal psychotherapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, and medications, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibiters, also known as SSRIs. It may seem daunting to engage a new therapist or psychiatrist during this time. Many providers, including those at NYU Langone, have been able to adapt to the current climate by providing telemedicine appointments via video visits.
While teens hate being told what to do, this is likely one of those times when a little authoritative parenting is in order. The most compassionate thing we can offers teens is our insistence that they fulfill expectations and do things that are in their own best interest.
Dr. Katherine Williamson, a California pediatrician and media representative for the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends staying on a schedule to maintain a sense of normalcy, eating healthy and exercising regularly.
Communication with your teenager during this time is extremely important. Providing fact-based information about the virus will help you establish creditability and trust.
If your child asks if you are worried, be honest. Validating their feelings and concerns will open up conversations that will help you be a supportive parent.
Beyond the emotional impact of the virus, it has impacted the way adolescents learn. Globally, over 1.2 billion children are out of the classroom. There is a distinctive rise of e-learning, whereby teaching is undertaken remotely and on digital platforms.
Even before COVID-19, there was already high growth and adoption in education technology or edtech. Global edtech investments reaching US$18.66 billion in 2019. The overall market for online education projected to reach $350 Billion by 2025. Whether it is language apps, virtual tutoring, video conferencing tools, or online learning software, there has been a significant surge in usage since COVID-19.
Research suggests that online learning increases the retention of information. It takes less time. This means the changes coronavirus have caused might be here to stay.
Some believe that the unplanned and rapid move to online learning – with no training, insufficient bandwidth, and little preparation – will result in a poor user experience that is unconducive to sustained growth. While others believe that a new hybrid model of education will emerge, with significant benefits.
“I believe that the integration of information technology in education will be further accelerated and that online education will eventually become an integral component of school education,“ says Wang Tao, Vice President of Tencent Cloud and Vice President of Tencent Education.
Students of all ages will need to adjust to this new world of learning. Not only during the pandemic but for years to come.
Zunesis has partnered for many years with K-12 and higher education clients on many of their IT projects. We understand the needs of our education customers. We search for new innovative products and solutions to meet their needs. As edtech evolves in the this new world, we will continue to search for new ways to help. Contact Zunesis today to find out more.