By Affinity May
The dramatic change that the recent lockdown has brought to the UK is undoubtedly an incredibly hard situation to get our heads around. It has affected the lives of every individual – through the standstill of industries, manufacturing, businesses, job losses and the legal rules and requirements of every citizen. However one topic that the media are not focusing on is the effect it is having on teenagers.
As quoted in the World Economic Forum, a psychologist dwelled on the idea that this lockdown may actually allow opportunities for young people to get more creative whilst under such strict rules. Kayleigh Smith, a seventeen year old student, has started to develop a small business called ‘Smith Accessories’ where she sells keyrings and lanyards, mainly in Disney designs. Creating her own logo, planning the small business and how to get publicity, she successfully started up her small innovative idea. (Her business can be viewed on Instagram via @smith.accessories). There are countless other examples like this, but without doubt the younger generation are shown to be using technology creatively to stay connected, motivated and to keep their spirits high.
Teenagers, who in this age are profoundly technological and are coming into their identity, are regularly asserting themselves against social pressures. The lockdown coming into action has created a trending hashtag among teenagers – #findyourself – convincing teens to start working on bettering themselves now that they have time, and motivating them to focus on becoming their own individual. Teenagers have been posting body transformations where they show their small journey of becoming healthier through exercise. Scarlett Anderson, sixteen years of age, shared, “Since this lockdown started I began working out to start on my ‘summer body’ but as time went by I realised that I was feeling so refreshed that I developed a small structured timetable and jotted down my progressions of working out, I then got motivated to learn how to cook nutritional meals – both something that I would never have done if this lockdown didn’t happen” Scarlett is not alone in the idea of ‘body transformations’ – teenagers all across the internet share their ideas, plans and progressions. In reference to this there are lockdown exercise challenges which teenagers can do in the comfort of their own home while supporting each other.
However, the social distancing measures that have been implemented have caused disruptions of future plans as well as daily routines. As of the 20th March, UK schools were closed to most pupils (remaining open to vulnerable children only, such as those whose parents are key workers). Over 90% of enrolled learners worldwide are now out of education. For teenagers with mental health issues these closures cause an inadequacy of connections to services that they may need to keep well. These could be facilities such as councillors, distractions, mediators etc. The charity YoungMinds surveyed young people in the UK on these issues. 83% of the students who took part said that the pandemic had made their conditions worse and 26% said they were unable to access mental health support. It should also be considered that an important coping mechanism for teenagers is their daily routine – including their school time tables and structures. Now there are no organisations in teenagers’ lives. Teenagers with special educational needs, for example autism, are particularly likely to become uncomfortable when their daily routines are disrupted and changed.
One big uncertainty in the majority of teenagers’ lives at the moment is the cancellation of the summer GCSE and A-level exams. Years of studying and working hard, but ending with no final exams as expected, can cause great discomfort to students. The unknown of the future is causing large amounts of stress and worry. Rebecca Hill, age 17, said, “Knowing that I may not be able to move forward with my future plans because I cannot sit my exams have caused so much stress on my mental health. I was reliant on my A-levels to allow me to move forward.”
On the other hand the impact that this lockdown has had on some teenagers’ lives has been positive. Now that they have more time to spend with families, relationships can be developed and strengthened. Many teenagers have found themselves venturing outside their room and interacting with their loved ones more than usual during the lockdown, most probably due to boredom – but maybe it’s allowing them to realise the importance of family. Saby Lenard, age 15, said, “I’ve started spending more time with my parents, especially my mum who has been encouraging me to create music, just like we used to when I was younger. I forgot just how much I loved spending time with them and I am thankful that this lockdown has opened my eyes to it and allowed me to realise the importance of family”. The majority of teenagers I spoke to admitted that they have found a new sense of happiness and comfort from being able to spend more time with their family. Some even regretted the amount of time that they spent on their phone or outside of the house, and away from their families, before the lockdown was announced.