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Are Young People Taking COVID-19 Seriously?

In the wake of spring break and the viral term "boomer remover" (i.e. the COVID-19 virus), a question has surfaced on the internet: are young people taking coronavirus seriously?

Spring break and the "boomer remover", Gen Z's response to COVID-19 "the coronavirus".

Specifically, this question refers to members of gen Z. This includes anyone who is born between 1997-2012, who is therefore around 8-23 years old at the time of this article. Because online polls typically survey those aged 18 or older, it is difficult to say whether this is an attitude that is truly representative of this age group.

However, according to a poll by Heart+Mind Strategies for WTOP (issued between March 18th-19th),

40% of individuals aged 18-22 believe that the COVID-19 pandemic is not a real threat.

Note: this was 13% higher than the overall sample.

This may in part be explained by growth spurt in the brain that occurs during late adolescents to emerging adulthood (~15-25) that is responsible for a very key capacity – abstract thought.

Abstract thought includes anything that is strictly mental, rather than experienced directly through the senses. In the early stages of the pandemic, the gravity of the situation may only exist as an idea to your teen (e.g. the deaths of thousands far away, the passage of time, the threat of recession). This being said, there are many nuances regarding this cognitive capacity as abstract thinking is complex and develops differently among individuals and situations depending on several factors such as culture and education.

Parents of teens may find themselves frustrated when young people have trouble understanding the severity of an abstract issue, no matter how much they talk to them about it. If this applies to you:

the key to your frustration may have to do with how you are presenting the information.

A developmental prerequisite to abstract reasoning is concrete reasoning - a reliance on the senses to consider new possibilities. That is, what remains abstract in conversation, can be made concrete through the use of visual aids like youtube, Netflix, and interactive experiments. Because these mediums are likely frequently used by your Gen Z loved one, they may naturally come to grasp the pandemic if their social media begins to accurately depict the issue.

However, if the social media they are consuming is lacking in this area, there are plenty of online resources that you can introduce them while staying home:

  1. Season 2 of “Explained”, Episode 7 “The Next Pandemic” on Netflix.

  2. Contagion (2011) on Netflix.

  3. A simple science experiment showing how soap repels germs:

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