Unsettled but optimistic: Talking to teens about COVID-19

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Last night Square Holes conducted an online focus group with young adults under 20 years old to hear their thoughts on current events and how they have adapted to life at home.

Initially there seemed to be some community misunderstanding related to social distancing policies:

“I’ve noticed that everyone seems to have a different understanding of what the actual rules are. Some people are saying you get a fine if you leave your house and others are saying you can see whoever you want, you just have to stay a meter away from them. Just really tell us how it is and give us a specific set of rules – that would be very beneficial.”

“I think [the government] could be doing a lot better. I work in retail and the shopping centres are still open. The shopping centre that I worked at had a positive case, and the only thing that happened was the store shut down for 24 hours. Plus, shopping centres like retail aren’t a necessity. We’re saying you can only go out of the house for essentials, then why are retail stores open?”

Regardless of confusion, the main message to STAY AT HOME is loud and clear. Despite some challenges, teens have started to adapt with new ways of working and socialising:

“I would say for me, everyone for me is using the app Houseparty. It’s pretty much like this where you talk to multiple people. It has been really nice to see people and play games that way. But I feel like when it’s on your phone, someone will be talking and get distracted. When it’s face-to-face, it’s just me and you and we’re hanging out. But when we’re in completely different spaces, it’s not really a great substitute for spending quality time together.”

Everyone agreed that the current crisis is a challenging time, but there is space for silver linings.

On a personal level…

“Since we’ve had to stay inside, I’ve been able to do things that I actually enjoy. So I’ve  been rethinking doing things I don’t enjoy just for the sake of doing them.”

“I’ve developed more of a routine. Going to school, I would wake up not all that early and do what I needed to do to rush out of the house. After school, I would maybe do some homework and then go to bed. Not really think anything of it. But the last week or so, I’ve developed a morning routine with what I do every day and the same thing for night-time. Which is kind of weird. It doesn’t make much sense. But that’s something interesting I’ve noticed that I hope sticks. I’ve noticed what works and what makes me feel better, so I’ve started doing that every day.”

And on a broader level…

“I think the environment has cleared up so much. There’s the river in Venice that is clear now and has animals swimming through it. So even though humans are suffering, the amount of suffering we put the environment through – it’s nice for it to actually take a break. There was even a photo of China. Before, it was jam-packed with pollution. Then while this started happening, there was no one going out and there was no pollution at all. So I reckon if we can have a year of staying inside, at least we give the environment a break.”

“I feel hopeful looking toward the future as I’ve seen all these community support groups pop up. Back in Canberra, we had some university students form mutual aid groups to just help out with other people who have needs in the community, like babysitting, or providing a place to stay or getting groceries for someone who is elderly and doesn’t have access. I just hope that they stay for the long term.”

In the coming weeks, the Square Holes team will continue the conversation across age groups, and sharing these more fully. Please stay tuned.

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