The Devastating Effects of COVID-19 on Teenagers

By Zoe Howard and Lindsey Leary

It was March 2020 when the first COVID-19 cases led to a two-week shutdown of most schools in North America. Many students were excited, thinking they were getting an unexpected break from school. It was not until friends, family, teachers, celebrities, and large portions of communities were diagnosed with the virus that students began to realize this wasn't just a vacation from school.

 

Fast forward to February 2021 – not a single student in North America can say that their life has returned to “normal.” Students will forever be changed by the pandemic; it has affected the way teenagers learn, think about mental health, and interact with people every day. 

 

One of the biggest changes for most teenagers has been the switch to remote learning. This transition has been the leading cause of countless new challenges for young adults. 

 

One of the negative repercussions that stem from remote learning is its effect on mental health. With little to no social interaction outside of the family, America’s teens feel adverse effects to their mental and physical well-being in isolation. 

 

Social isolation is as detrimental to a person’s health as smoking fifteen cigarettes a day. Furthermore, social isolation is even more damaging in situations where students have an abusive home life. Teenagers in these scenarios are extremely dependent on external social interaction and are more susceptible to the consequences of a lack of socialization. 

 

Students are spending more time than ever staring at their devices to attend classes, complete their homework, and relax. Additionally, adolescents’ time spent exercising has dramatically decreased since the start of the pandemic when sports were canceled.

 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that combined with the emotional stress of living during a pandemic, isolation can lead to increased anxiety and depression rates. In turn, this may cause an increased risk of suicide.

 

Students’ social isolation has been furthered by the cancellation of extracurricular activities such as dances, clubs, theater, and sports. The Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health Organization pointed out that these cancellations add another level of anxiety to teenagers’ lives. For most juniors and seniors, school events, programs, and clubs are used to build their college resumes. This shift has led many students to concern about college applications and future plans.  With nearly every school-sanctioned event being canceled, many teenagers have been left with fewer ways to prove themselves to prospective colleges.

 

A poll by Wakefield Research found that 57% of the teenagers were concerned about the effects of coronavirus on their future, while 27% of the respondents shared that their plans for after high school changed due to the pandemic. Additionally, 44% of juniors and seniors polled said that COVID-19 affected their plans to pay for college. 

 

Through the loss of structure, socialization, school-associated activities, and many more factors that once composed normalcy, teenagers have been left feeling stranded as they try to adapt to their “new normal” in this time of constant uncertainty.