The COVID effect on North Devon Teens
When we went into #lockdown for the first time, I was fully expecting a sudden drop in the #mentalhealth of the students that we work with. What we actually found is that on the whole, they were quite happy to sit in their rooms and spend hours on end gaming or chatting on their favourite platforms. I realised that this is their community and to some extent, in the short term, their social interactions weren't impacted at all.
Saying this, as the lockdown continued, it started to become apparent that they were starting to miss the social interaction that they had with each other at our academy. It would be nice if they also missed the staff and the work that they did, but this is probably too much to ask for.
Fast forward to the college returning and the second lockdown and we noticed that the behaviour of our students was quite different to previous years. We saw a marked drop in the sort of misbehavior that we normally see, particularly, but not solely with the boys and it was replaced by disengagement. Instead of students storming off and slamming doors, we are more likely to see them switch off and refuse to communicate.
Now it could be that this is simply due to the different students that we have this year, but I wonder if is due to the longer term impact of an #isolation that they perhaps don't even realise that they are feeling.
#Rural #Devon can be quite an isolated place at the best of times, but not having the many markers for the year that bring the community together (parties, fairs, festivals, bonfire nights, etc) probably adds to that sense of isolation.
One thing that hasn't been lost on me, having moved down from West London, is the advantage of having lots of green space around to enjoy when we were in lockdown. I was so grateful that we didn't have to drive and park up the car just to get to the nearest bit of scenery (which was a towpath on the Thames that we would have to share with hundreds of others). But it seems that those who have grown up here, just don't see it.
Now that we have some hope on the horizon of things returning to something resembling normality, I wonder what the long-term impact will be on this generation. Having spent a year or more not socialising in person, how easy will they find it to start again? Will they struggle when they start work and have to build friendships there? What will happen to the various youth clubs and organisations that were already seeing lower numbers? Will it just be easier to stick to what they know and just communicate via their phone, laptop or games console and miss out on the many opportunities for social growth that these groups provide?
Hopefully not, but I suspect that these groups will be critical in 2021 for the young people that have been impacted by this #pandemic to relearn the skills that they need to be part of the communities that they live in.
So, let's not underestimate the role of these groups and let's give them the support that they will need as they restart their various activities.