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The Death Spiral of the Pandemic By: Vishal K

Being confined indoors for months due to the COVID-19 pandemic created an extraordinary period in everyone's lives. Society came to a standstill, prompting people to stay in their homes and disrupting the usual flow of daily life. Individuals were isolated in their rooms, separated from their loved ones. This unexpected change caused teenagers to experience a vastly different reality than what they had expected from the supposed ‘golden years’ of being a teenager. This article will explore how the COVID-19 pandemic affected teenagers mental health, specifically focusing on its impact upon the education system as well as screen time.

In today's society, many teenagers dread the endless day of school. The early mornings, the late night cram sessions, school delivers unwarranted stress and anxiety. However, in-person interactions and face to face learning is extremely beneficial to young adults. In a study conducted by Montessori schools, it recapped “With practice in classrooms and other social environments, children can improve their capacity for emotional self-regulation.” In a school classroom, students are able to learn and understand comprehensible information, contrasted to learning behind a computer screen. As well as education, children are able to find groups of friends, increasing social stability in their life, as “Creating social relationships and friendships are important components of mental well-being in early childhood development and education.” When adequate resources and environments were eliminated from teenagers' lives, a new domain of learning was evolved. Students were able to sit back in their beds, joining classes from their devices and pay attention at their own leisure. Social contact was fairly limited, and many individuals lost connections to their friends. As a result of this new environment, “substantial decline in student learning in both English language arts/literacy (ELA) and mathematics between the 2018–19 and 2021–22 academic years.” Such comfortability with poor and lethargic engagement in school caused subconscious stress and psychological issues. In a study conducted during 2021, it was found that “distance learning students report psychological problems more frequently than face-to-face learners.”

As well as damaging the education system, studies showed that increased screen time during the pandemic resulted in feelings of isolation and depression. With school being regarded as an afterthought, many young adults were drawn to finding new pastimes, linking directly with the rise of Tik Tok and other social media during this time. Studies showed a one-hundred eighty percent growth rate in app usage between the ages of 15-20 years old. In 2020 alone, Tik Tok saw nearly three-hundred and fifty million downloads! With its addictive nature, kids separated themselves inside their rooms, scrolling for hours on end. Many experts have correlated this increased screen time to poor habits, such as a sedentary lifestyle, ill-eating habits, and terrible sleep schedules. In a study by the NIH (National Institutes of Health), it is associated how “The impact of this habit results in consumption of unhealthy foods and physical inactivity, increasing the prevalence of overweight and obesity in this age group. In addition, excessive use of these technologies can have negative consequences on vision development, as well as on sleep quality and psychological health. Being so accessible, the rise of social media impaired the work ethic and motivation of many kids, resulting in a long and slow recovery process to the present date. 

The collective failure of education and subconscious isolationism during quarantine resulted in many teenage kids developing inadequate mental health. Life felt comfortable, but a disregard for real interactions and endless phone usage resulted in what many would not call the ‘golden years.’ To end with a quote, it is evident how the COVID-19 pandemic is hard to be viewed as a time of prosperity:  “Since March 2020, adolescent anxiety and depressive symptoms have doubled globally.”


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