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Teens talk about COVID-19 and online schooling

By Kaelanne Jordan
Email: mediarelations.camsel@catholictt.org
Twitter: @kaelanne1

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently reports that the risk of exposure to COVID-19 is low for young Americans, research by The National Child Traumatic Stress Network on natural disasters, makes it clear that, compared to adults, children are more vulnerable to the emotional impact of traumatic events that disrupt their daily lives.

Amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, everyday life has changed for most people.

Like adults, young people—even infants and toddlers—may struggle with significant adjustments to their routines e.g. school/day care closures, home confinement which may now interfere with their sense of structure.

According to child trauma experts at Child Trends and the Child Trauma Training Center at the University of Massachusetts, while most children eventually return to their typical functioning when they receive consistent support from sensitive and responsive caregivers, others are at risk of developing significant mental health problems, including trauma-related stress, anxiety, and depression. Children with prior trauma or pre-existing mental, physical, or developmental problems—and those whose parents struggle with mental health disorders, substance misuse, or economic instability—are at especially high risk for emotional disturbances.

In addition to keeping children physically safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is also important, these experts say, to care for their emotional health.

Catholic News spoke to secondary school students via WhatsApp to get their thoughts on how COVID-19 is disrupting their daily life. Here are their responses:

CN: How are you dealing with the being at home?

Christiana-Li, 14 : I don’t find much of a problem with staying at home because I’m an only child and was raised with just my mother. I definitely do miss the company of my friends and the joy I get around them however, it isn’t that dire since we have social media and other forms of communication.

Anastazia, 14: I don’t mind being at home but I miss my friends. I live in a lively household so I’m not lonely but I’m used to seeing all my friends every day so it’s lacking.

Sian, 15: I’m dealing ok…just fine. I mean it’s not like I can go to school if I have an argument with my parent or avoid her in general, but I guess that can have its pros too. We can sit down and talk about things we didn’t get to before.

Christian, 15: I’m dealing with being at home mainly by playing video games with my friends, reading and exercising.

Jolene, 15: I get to sleep, draw and listen to music more than I would at school but not seeing friends can at times wear me down.

CN: How do you feel about the pandemic?

Christiana-Li: I believe that this pandemic will not be the end of us as the human race. I think that if we’re smart, efficient and compassionate, we could turn this very negative experience into one that could allow us to bond and become more appreciative and loving people.

Anastazia: I don’t really have any thoughts about the pandemic. It’s a thing. It’s happening and it’s unfortunate.

Sian: It hasn’t really struck me all that much that there’s been an outbreak of a deadly virus at all despite being an asthmatic. I’ve been learning new hobbies and steadily doing assigned work and projects.

Christian: I’m not worried about it. Once people take the proper precautions and follow rules instated by the government and ministers, Trinidad and Tobago and the rest of the world will weather out the storm like others.

Jolene: I feel calm. I’m not anxious like many others though I feel it right to be aware and cautious of it.

CN: How do you feel about the online schooling (advantages and disadvantages)?

Christiana-Li: I actually don’t mind online school [be]cause it gives me more time to be patient and teach myself, especially when I feel like I’m falling behind in high-paced subjects. It allows me to collect myself and try my best to tackle each project and assignment. Also, the deadlines keep me in check and helps me to not stray or waste as much time.

Anastazia: I hate it. Absolutely. I generally don’t like taking schoolwork home and I feel lost. Every time I check my email there’s just so much work that I have to do and I’m already behind and I feel like there’s no hope of catching up or even consistently doing the work. Its convenient in the sense I can use the technology I’m used to and I don’t have teachers breathing down my back and the deadlines are more flexible. But it’s a lot of work and I’m used to the work coming to me rather than having to look for it. The teachers in different departments are less aware of each other so work overlaps and overwhelms and they’re trying to keep a consistent workload but it’s becoming too much very quickly.

Sian: I haven’t been too involved in terms of online schooling. One thing is that I can see and keep up with the assignments sent in advance, but I don’t always see notifications so immediate results would be an issue. I’m also not allowed to use Zoom platforms of any kind since my parent believes they are inefficient and unstable. We keep a lot of our documents and things such as bank info, etc., digitally. So, I can’t risk using a platform that’s so fresh and has already had a history of hacks and viruses.

Christian: I strongly disapprove of the online schooling as the disadvantages massively outweigh the advantages. I understand that there is not much the Ministry of Education can do but it seems as if some of the classes are just limes. My friends and I sometimes have full conversations over the teachers and they don’t really care. As for the work we are being given, it is not much at all and is completed with ease as it is all stuff we have learned previously. It would be moderately better if they taught new information but I question the ability and competency with which they would be able to do so.

Jolene: Getting work online has put me a bit on edge as I’m not sure when they’ll send it and if I may miss it. Regardless it’s not that bad. The part I dislike the most is video calling as I generally don’t like to use video calling apps. And also, for some assignments, teachers should take into consideration that not everyone has the necessary material and tools to complete projects etc at home.