The survey suggests the nation’s young people also have a lot on their minds to distract them from online learning. It found that 4 out of 5 teens say they’re following news about the coronavirus pandemic closely. More than 60% said they are worried that they, or someone in their family, will be exposed to the virus and that it will have an effect on their family’s ability to earn a living. Those numbers were significantly higher among teenagers of color.
Jose Luis Vilson, a middle school teacher in the Washington Heights section of New York City, says those findings echo what he’s seeing among his students. “You think about the vast majority of the kids, they’re going through their own levels of stress,” he said.
Engaging them right now, in a city that has been at the center of one of the worst outbreaks of the coronavirus, he added, is challenging, and not just for technical reasons: “There are hundreds of cases just within the school district that I work in of COVID-19.”
And, Vilson adds, many of those students have parents or family members who are essential workers, such as nurses, doctors and home health care aides. “So really, we as educators have to be mindful of all those things.”
A majority of teens in the survey, 56%, said not being able to keep up with their schoolwork worried them. African American (66%) and Hispanic/Latino (70%) teens were significantly more likely than white teens to report being worried.
Research done in past disasters suggests that it is teenagers who are the most at risk when school is interrupted. Many are forced to work to earn money or have stay home and take care of younger siblings. They are more likely to drop out and less likely to go on to college.
But, experts say, keeping young people connected to a community improves their future chances. From that point of view, it’s a bright spot that most teens say that they’re connecting with friends or family outside their household every day, using texting, social media and the old-fashioned telephone. And 68% say they are keeping in regular touch with school, at least by email.