Guest editorial: Teenagers understand toll of the crisis, too

Charlotte Altman
Rowland Hall junior

Amid a global crisis we tend to overlook the opinions of teenagers. As a teenager myself, it’s not hard to see why. The world is in an economic spiral, thousands are dying daily and yet we are worried about our spring break, right? I was recently presented with a project in my United States History class: “For this assignment, you are going to make a time capsule of sources for historians to use when they study the COVID19 outbreak. Your time capsule should include a variety of sources, such as photos, newspaper articles, letters, social media, etc. Think about what historians or students could use to understand what happened.” After hours of Google searches trying to reword the phrase, “How do teenagers view COVID-19?” it became apparent that despite the lack of information about my generation, the existing sources — written by my parents’ generation primarily — only touch on teenage reality.

Many would claim the obvious: Teenagers are so self-absorbed they only care about missing their graduation, prom, spring break, getting their braces off in time, taking standardized tests and of course seeing their friends. They are not entirely wrong. While adults worry about unemployment and financial depreciation, they discredit teens for worrying about themselves as well. Fair. I mean, the world is collapsing and we care about a dumb school dance. It makes you think we are clearly misinformed on the pandemic or ignorant because we don’t read the news, right? I’d say that is false. Us teens are basically mirroring the bigger losses our parents are facing and attempting to relate to them. From an outside perspective, it makes us seem inconsiderate to even attempt to connect with such major damage. We clearly don’t recognize the severity of the virus if we are complaining about missing the ACT. I mean there are people dying and lives being ruined.

Adults will attribute these feelings to a lack of awareness. What adults fail to notice is the abundance of information teenagers see. From tweets, to Instagram posts, to Tik Tok dance videos, coronavirus information is unavoidable. Most of the time these posts are humorous. They make fun of having a Zoom video graduation or the lack of toilet paper at the store, but beneath the apparent humor each post reveals a grim reality making teens — consciously or not — think about what the world has become. A seemingly funny post talking about online school or never leaving the house evokes pity, questions and most importantly recognition of the virus. Going on social media, for me, used to be an escape from daily stresses. Lately, it has become challenging as the internal story behind each post is disheartening.

As I read article after article for my history project I found each one disappointing. Just like if I were to write about the perspective of doctors in the crisis, adults who write about teenage viewpoints also tend to miss the mark. Composing a time capsule from these sources would meet all my project requirements, but it would be wrong to disregard a real teenage perspective. While I could use social media posts as sources, without the “I can’t believe this is happening” feeling that we get from living these circumstances, people in the future would not be able to relate sympathetically to the content that has formed teenage views.

At the very least, I thought I could attempt to verbalize the teenage perspective because it is largely misconstrued. We are all in this crisis. No matter how you cope with it, our problems are real and teenagers are complaining selfishly or not. We don’t have to understand each other’s perspectives, but we have to recognize them. We are also doing our part to help, from sewing masks, to raising money, to tutoring one another in school. While these acts are mostly small, they make a difference. Despite the satirical nature of our social media, we recognize our global circumstance. It is extremely difficult to see how our generation is handling a crisis when our methods of information are still so new to the world, but trust me when I say we recognize our situation.

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