Digital can’t replace everything (Secondary schoolers)

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Square Holes recently asked six secondary school students, aged 13 – 16, to summarise the COVID-19 pandemic in one word:

Uncertain. We don’t know if there’s going to be a second wave or if it’s going to spike in Australia. It’s a bit scary because we don’t really know anything about it.”

Unknown. I remember when I first heard about it, we thought it would never come to Australia. Then it started coming in and we didn’t know what was happening. Everyone was panicking.”

Unusual. It’s been a very different experience compared to pretty much anything. Even my parents said they didn’t have anything like this happen in their life. There are pros and cons to it. It’s a good learning experience.”

Mysterious. There isn’t much out there about it. There isn’t a cure, and no one actually really knows how it started.”

Weird. It’s a big adjustment. But it was good that today was the 14th day of no cases. So if what they say is true, everything should improve a lot more.”

For these teens, the strangeness and uncertainty was largely in the context of their immediate surroundings:

“I know it mainly affects people who are immuno-compromised like my mum. It can put you in hospital and you might need [a ventilator] and there aren’t many of them free at the moment.”

“We’ve just been loading up on hand sanitiser when we can and taking that wherever we go. I know how to sew so I’ve been making some face masks for my family and the people who live in my area.”

At my work, I get a bit hesitant because you don’t know who is going to come through the door and if they’ve been in contact with anyone. But we make sure to sanitise and santise the benches and all that. If you keep up with good hygiene, it should be alright.”

Like others, they miss playing sport and seeing their friends. But despite being tech-savvy teens, they felt the new online way of life is not as satisfying compared to IRL:

I do quite a lot of extracurricular activities. Only a few of those things switched to online. And even online, it was a bit difficult to communicate. I did singing lessons online, and just recently I just started jazz dance classes online. I think issues with connections, like video and audio cutting out, makes it hard to understand instructions.”

“It’s quite different because when you’re actually there you can share moments and it’s easier to talk. You can have real conversations, where they can reply, and you can interpret their reply in the right way. A lot of the time when people text or Snapchat, what they say gets misinterpreted and can lead to conflict.”

But they are enjoying some newfound free time:

“I feel like I’ve been a bit more creative. I’ve been writing down a lot more what’s happening. I don’t usually have the time to journal. Now, before bed, I’ll just sit down and put on some music and doodle.”

Read about our previous discussions with other age groups to make sense of our world today.

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