With Netflix streaming on the rise and TikToks dominating screen time, there is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the average teenager's life. As the school standard shifted from a point-based system to a pass/fail system due to an online setting, teenagers are starting to think less about education plans and more about their social media uploads. This new temporary system of "life" for adolescents could seem fun for the moment but might prove to have detrimental effects when the new school year begins.
When the bell rang on the last in-class school day way back in March, it would have been unimaginable to think it would be signaling the end of the 2019-2020 in-class school year. Most teens were quite excited to know that school will be transitioning from a strict traditional process to a more flexible and easier method of schooling. No more waking up before the crack of dawn and waiting in the infamous lunch line. At the beginning of this ongoing break, teenagers, including myself, worked diligently to get all the school work completed in time and up to par. This attitude slowly shifted as time went on since there was a lack of incentive to move forward. I started to lack interest in my classes and even began forgetting what I learned the day before! Many teachers, including my own, started using methods of close communication to help keep in contact with their students. This led to the infamous Zoom call and its many stereotypes. "We know that strong, secure bonds with our teachers are really important in social-emotional development. To suddenly lose out on that under such strange and unprecedented circumstances can be hard on kids," says Jamie Howard, a current clinical psychologist practicing in the Anxiety Disorders Center at the Child Mind Institute.
When the Zoom calls became more common throughout the rest of the year, I started thinking about how I could help those in the community who do not have close family members to talk to and lack the technology to use online chat platforms. I started poking around Google when I stumbled upon the idea of virtual volunteering. The idea of giving back to my community during these hard times stuck with me and pushed me to apply to numerous online tutoring platforms that would help students and adults all around me. If I were to give one piece of advice to the many students in my position, it would be to not get disappointed if you are declined from many of your volunteer applications and know that where there is a will, there is a way. On the contrary, my parents, just like many others, were leery about their kid(s) doing in-person volunteer activities as it increased the risk of contracting the virus and could jeopardize the families well being. Whatever the case is, there is always something for a young student to spend their time on during this unusual time.
Based on personal experiences, the first major educational leap I started during this COVID-19 break was getting ahead on high school graduation requirements via online courses. Instead of taking valuable space in the always jam-packed school year schedule form, completing classes during this time will save you grief in the future and prove to yourself that you can accomplish a great feat despite COVID. In addition to my online courses, I also started the long preparation for every high schooler's nightmare, the SAT and ACT. These are just some activities that I did so far in my COVID-19 remote learning experience. Searching the depths of the internet will give students numerous other possibilities of educational development that could help them make the most of this very unique experience.
Even though quite a few students spread their wings and took advantage of this unique time, many kids and teenagers started to slack off and work more on their Instagram profiles and Snapchat stories instead of writing actual narratives that could benefit them in future classes. This brought the most common question asked by parents, "What should my child do, now since he/she has so much free time?" As a current high-schooler, I know that hearing your mom or dad saying no to all social media is not the happiest piece of news you've ever heard. Which is why I do not believe that students should be deprived of their once in a lifetime "teenage" experience. Instead, every individual should be allowed everything in moderation. In addition to using your social media platforms, teenagers and kids could start pursuing new interests and hobbies they would allocate time towards. These hobbies could range from sewing, knitting clothes for the needy, to filming videos regarding social issues during this hard time. In my personal experience so far, I have started my own youtube channel Sir Makes-A-Lot,devoted to inspiring people to get up off their couch and start building things around the house. My videos included helpful tips and tricks during this Covid-19 time, to building unique gear used to make everyday life easier. I also took my piano playing to the next level by creating online concerts that were posted to the internet for those locked at home to watch.
As summer vacation hits its midpoint, every student by now should have something productive for them to do to help keep their minds stay on top of things and roaring for whenever the next school year begins. Even though many would say the Covid-19 virus closed off lots of bright opportunities this past spring and summer, I believe that every student, if persistent enough, can find a way to make this situation a big positive for themselves and those around them. My father even indicated that policies like wearing masks all times in the outdoors will be present for a while and working from home for most of the week will most probably become the norm in the future. The lockdown did indeed close many doors to the residents of the world but opened up a door towards a new system of education and opportunities that would never have crossed the minds of the many people forced to stay at home today. The virus has shined a light on the many hidden talents and skills of students that were buried by outdoor activities and social lives all this time.