Why some teenagers social distance properly and others don’t 

Forming own cohorts one solution to staying active

As demonstrated when some teenagers pile together into cars for road trips and others sit spaced apart in lawn chairs, teens’ safe social distancing practices are a mixed bag.

The beginning of shelter-in-place in March put a halt on all social activity. Teenagers were not going to school, seeing friends, or participating in sports and after school activities. However, as the community shifted toward its goal of reopening, people integrated interactive activities back into their schedules and looked upon social events more leniently. This poses a question: What are the attitudes toward social distancing within the teen community and Lamorinda? 

With this long absence of social interaction, many teenagers developed their own, creative ways of social distancing so they could see their friends again. Some meet together outside in open spaces or in front yards, while others do not social distance at all.  

In interviews, we prompted students to describe what activities they partake while socializing with friends during the pandemic. 

“I’ve been trying my best to not let quarantine take away from the fun of my senior year,” said senior Emmalyn Laurenson. “There have been five consistent people that I’ve been seeing and we’ve actually been doing a good amount of things. We’ve gone to the beach at least once a week, and we obviously took masks with us every time we went.” 

Some students spend time with friends in a safe manner, but notice that their overall experience differs from what it would be pre-quarantine.

“I went from not going out at all to going to the park and sitting feet apart, wearing masks with friends. It’s definitely been lonely not getting to go out or see friends in the same way I used to,”  senior Gwen Miles said.

Although many teens strictly follow social distancing guidelines, some have not followed them properly or at all. Many wanted to take advantage of their summer vacations, which entailed partying and get-togethers, none of which are safe, according to current health guidelines. 

“I think that teens are horrible at social distancing. I think they are one of the main reasons corona keeps spreading because they can’t not be around each other for five minutes,” Miles said.

Experts worry about teen’ roles as asymptomatic carriers; while they may not experience symptoms of COVID-19, they can easily transmit the virus to more vulnerable parts of the population. By ignoring social distancing protocol, teens are disregarding the health of others. 

“Catching COVID-19 should be a very real and frightening concern to everybody in the world,” senior Rosie Grant-Hudd said. “My parents are on the older side, and I’m very afraid I could give them the virus. Teens are just as responsible for their actions as adults. It takes a conscious choice to look at CDC guidelines and decide not to follow them. There is a choice that goes into staying home or going out with friends in close proximity.”  

Teens are also not shy about posting photos with friends on social media, often without masks and in large groups. The teenage narrative seems to focus on not missing out and, as a result, it is common that teens follow suit to what they see others doing on social media. 

“I don’t think teens care about social distancing. I think teens are thinking in the same environment as each other, they preach what they believe,” senior Hunter Ridley said. “Some will say ‘at the beach’ and their friends will comment nice stuff, but then others are posting BLM and activist content and they post wearing masks and staying distant.” 

Teen students are just like everyone else: they have a responsibility to social distance, wear masks in public, and follow CDC guidelines. Regardless of content trending on social media, the majority of the world is more focused on the fatal coronavirus. In order for cases to decrease and schools to reopen, authorities say teens must cooperate with health guidelines because those measures have a bigger impact in regards to COVID-19 than they think. 

“We need to try and do all we can to stop COVID-19, taking all the precautions we can if we don’t want this to become our new normal,” said Ridley.