The closure of schools has left teens across the globe feeling mixed emotions. In this L.A. Times photo, tenth-grade students wait to pick up laptops at Linda Esperanza Marquez High School in Huntington Park last month to use at home for schoolwork. (Christina House / Los Angeles Times)
Orange County School of the Arts

Opinion: Teens are reacting differently to quarantine

Quarantine — what a weighted word. It’s crazy how an illness has escalated into a global crisis. Faced with a pandemic, society has been tasked with a simple demand: stay inside. But how has that affected the various generations?

For some it may be a time to rejoice — the responsibility of socializing has been lifted off of their plate — for others, self-isolation seems like a punishment. Not to mention the fact that thousands of adults have been faced with temporary unemployment, exposure to the disease in workplaces such as hospitals and supermarkets and the risk of death if they are already immunocompromised.

During trying times like this, it’s easy for the world to become divided through differences of opinion. I decided to explore the quarantine cases of today’s teens to see if there are any trends in Gen Z’s approach to the coronavirus.

“At first [I thought] that everyone was overreacting but it’s a little different now,” said Kiana Byer, a 15-year-old student at the Orange County School of the Arts, as a response to the pervasive panic of COVID-19.

This isn’t an uncommon reaction, but now with more than half a million cases worldwide, the action is necessary. One of the main solutions: social distancing. A straight-forward process that involves keeping six feet away from anyone you’re not living with and avoiding group gatherings of five or more people.

Yet why has it proved to be so daunting of a task? Some feel as though their compliance won’t make a difference, while others are exasperated with the younger generations’ lack of participation.

“I find it so inconsiderate and immature of the people that are still going out and hanging out with their friends,” said Alyssa Elumba, an OCSA sophomore. “They believe they’re invincible. They don’t think that they can become a statistic.”

This perfectly sums up the youth’s thought process. I, too, once believed that I would come out of these circumstances unscathed, but I was blind to the gravity of this situation. No one will be unaffected. Even if you don’t contract the virus, it will be in your community, and maybe even in your family. What’s more, it’s not only the elderly who are put at risk.

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Meghan Barton is a Crohn’s and Colitis 2020 Patient Ambassador. (Image courtesy of Meghan Barton)

“Social distancing is so important because even if it may not affect younger people, it lowers the risk of people who have chronic medical conditions like me, who can’t fight off the coronavirus,” Meghan Barton, a 14-year-old suffering from Crohn’s disease explained.

As many chronic conditions happen to be “invisible illnesses” meaning that you can’t tell that a person has an autoimmune disorder from first glance, it is imperative that you follow orders from the CDC in order to protect the wellbeing of the community.

Now that the inevitability of social distancing has been established, why is it such a difficult task to adhere to? For many, it’s obvious: no socializing.

“The most difficult part of quarantine is not seeing my friends or just physical face-to-face contact with other people,” Barton said.

An extrovert’s worst nightmare, endless days stuck at home proves to be the greatest toll of the quarantine experience. But it doesn’t stop there. As many thrive off of a weekend chock-full of classes, activities, and hang-outs, a mundane home agenda is a calamity.

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Katie Stuernagel is a senior at OCSA. (Image courtesy of Dan Shields)

One of the main targets of the abundance of losses from this disaster is the class of 2020. With a semester full of “lasts” ending prematurely, this year’s graduating class has been hit hard with overwhelming feelings of disappointment. And with no one to blame, the seventeen and eighteen year-olds are harboring a sense of communal frustration.

“The time that I could be strengthening my relationships or creating new ones before I leave high school is basically thrown out the window… it’s a very tough reality to face,” OCSA senior Katie Stuernagel said.

A frustration just as prevalent can be found within the class of 2021. As schools across the globe are tackling their courses online, high school juniors are faced with the arduous task of maintaining an impressive GPA, excelling on their AP exams, completing their SATs and ACTs, and applying for college, virtually alone.

Additionally, any college workshops or programs scheduled for the summer may be canceled, adding an extra layer of difficulty to their experience.

“It’s been hard to adapt to the online environment because there’s nobody in the flesh helping you, and junior year is probably the hardest because you’re preparing to write for colleges and trying to do extracurriculars…but this takes a big chunk of opportunities away,” OCSA junior Kayla Bland said.

With the closure of schools everywhere, these difficulties only scratch the surface of the hardships that teens around the world are facing. As educational institutions provide an abundance of resources to students in need of financial support, the closure of schools has taxed entire population demographics.

Many rely on schools to provide meals to students who can’t afford it otherwise, or devices in the classroom to aid in the completion of online tasks.

Additionally, schools provide asylum for teens in homes where they do not feel comfortable or welcomed, as well as those who don’t have a home to stay in at all.

Luckily, many schools are continuing to offer food available for pickup for those who have arrangements, as well as a loan of class-sets of devices for the continuation of school online. However, this does not entirely fix the consequences of their closure.

With an abundance of difficulties resulting from quarantine, could there be any benefits from the experience? As many are coming home from college or out of a workaholic grind, this might be a needed break within their hectic schedule.

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Marissa McKenzie, University of Arizona class of 2023. (Image courtesy of Marissa McKenzie)

“I can finally take time to myself to wind down, take on hobbies I’ve never had the time for, watch shows I don’t get the chance to, and be home with my family,” Marissa McKenzie, a freshman at the University of Arizona, said about how she plans to spend her time home from college.

This newfound lack of rigidity allows for ample time to pursue interests that were otherwise ignored. But this time should not be taken for granted as it came at the cost of many people’s daily lives and income.

“Overall quarantine has helped me appreciate everything I have.” OCSA sophomore Valerie McCormick said.

Although COVID-19 has come with major losses in society, it hasn’t taken away everything just yet.

After inspecting Gen Z’s perspectives, I can conclude that the quarantine experience has offered valuable insight. I feel as though our generation, along with the rest of the world, has the ability to flatten the curve.

Despite the fear circulating the globe, complying with the CDC’s health recommendations will lead to a quicker recovery. Although the coronavirus has unnerved the lives of today’s teens, it is no excuse to become disconnected. Supporting yourself and each other is what will ease the bleak circumstances. Everyone can do their part to aid in the community’s recovery.