This generation of teens is becoming a more active presence in the world. We are no stranger to protests and petitions, and the huge presence of technology in today’s society has made it easier than ever to show our support in times of need. The massive societal upheaval that has affected us all in the past few months, albeit in different ways, has made many of us question our futures. To provide an insight into different perspectives, I asked other 16-year olds from various countries how their views on the world have changed during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Frustrations specific to our age, like how the pandemic will affect university applications in the future, how it has already affected important exams and valuable time in school, as well as friendships and relationships. And more global concerns regarding governmental handling of the situation and the economic difficulties the world will face in years to come. The pandemic has influenced it all. And it has not gone unnoticed in adolescents. Many feel that they will be living off the repercussions of this time for years to come.
Having personally experienced the disappointment of finding out that I would not be able to sit my GCSEs, like generations before me, I can say that this is a stressful time for our age group, in Britain. It has taken away the stability of knowing that the results we get are based solely on how hard we have worked and our ultimate performance in the exam room and replaced it with the unreliable method of using teachers’ predicted grades. Knowing how important these grades are to get into sixth form colleges, and potentially university, makes the future seem daunting and unpredictable.
When asked about how the pandemic has affected her views on friendships and relationships, Ava Martin, 16, from London, says: “This time has made me realise just how tenuous and co-dependent our lives are. Take our age, friendships and relationships are already so turbulent, and not seeing people day-to-day affects them in ways that I couldn’t have predicted; because for some people nothing has changed, but I think for me it’s ruined some relationships because it’s exposed certain elements of their personality, especially because most people act differently online. If the pandemic hadn’t happened, then a lot of relationships would still be going strong and so would a lot of friendships. However, previously that meant so much to me, but now I’m starting to understand what it’s like to spend time alone, and enjoy it, which can often be overlooked."
Although many would agree, data shows that there has been a sharp increase in the number of calls made to Childline from distressed young people finding the time more difficult. In this period of our lives, friendships are vitally important to our wellbeing and having that snatched away is a difficult experience.
Ava goes on to talk about how revealing this time has been in relation to other issues: “It’s also made me realise that when the government ‘tried’ to, for example, reduce climate change, they evidently weren’t doing everything they could. I feel like this has shown that the government has a lot more power than they make out and could really create massive amounts of beneficial change if they wanted to, but are instead ambiguous, evasive and don’t get enough done as they could.”
Governments have been vague and made decisions that aren’t what’s best for their countries
There was a general consensus among those I talked to that governments have been vague and made decisions that aren’t what’s best for their countries. Anna Demichelis, 16, from Turin in Italy, says: “Hospitals were a disaster, doctors have been working far too many hours and there were never enough places for the people infected to recover. Although I think our government has done a good job during the lockdown, it was undoubtedly a very difficult situation, I think it has just shown everyone how unprepared our health service was. Also, the information we were given, continuously, wasn’t accurate a lot of the time – whether that be because some regions did more testing than others – and it made people confused which is never helpful; I think this has shown just how unreliable media can be. Now, there are people who are still too afraid to go out and others who are trying not to think about it and just start again. On top of all of this, I find it pretty embarrassing that schools are still closed but football has restarted, the government needs to get their priorities in order – but that’s what Italians are like…”
Another concern that surfaces is the effect that the economic crash will have on future generations. Being at an age where entering the workforce is constantly looming nearer, it is demoralising to think about the potential difficulty of acquiring a job, when fresh out of education, in a society crippled by economic problems. Josh White, 16, from California, says: “I think that the pandemic as a whole is going to be a life changing event for everyone who experiences it, and it could shape the future of society as we know it. Since we still don’t understand the virus fully, the severity of the situation is ambiguous. But right now, it has managed to bring society to an economic and social standstill. The downfall of many of the world’s leading economies is worrying for the future.”
If we consider that Britain has only just paid back the last of the debt to the USA from World War II, this debt may be a legacy that we have for most of our lives.
The pandemic has really opened my eyes to the kindness of others
Although there are many complaints, many are in agreement that there have also been pleasant discoveries; Izzie Holmes, 16, from London, says: “the devastating spread of the Covid-19 pandemic has really opened my eyes to the kindness of others. For example, the way neighbours whom I’ve never spoken with before, have created a rota to do the shopping of elderly residents on my road, or the amount of support people have shown for key workers, shows the true selflessness and compassion within all of us. I used to think human beings were inherently self-motivated but now I believe there is more willing for the greater good than I had anticipated. In future, I think I’ll take less things for granted, because it’s so important to be appreciative of others.”
Ella Arnbjorn, 16, from Copenhagen, who has a similarly positive attitude, says: “I think the pandemic has shown me how much we depend on each other, and how close we all are. Before this pandemic I sort of just thought that each country was on its own, but now I can see how much we are all united and depend on each other. The world has been globalised beyond belief and it’s only when something like this happens, that we see it. The fact that we can still buy products from entirely different continents using the internet is incredible, something that never could have happened even just 20 years ago. It’s also changed my view on the global health care system, by seeing how easily it can break down, and how important the people in that branch of work are.”
So it seems that the pandemic has greatly changed 16-year-olds’ views of the world and their futures, but not all negatively. This situation was out of anyone’s control and though it’s easy to assign blame and cultivate a pessimistic attitude, it’s important to stay hopeful.