According to The New York Times, some teens are choosing to keep their masks on, even after pandemic mandates end. The reason isn’t because they fear Covid. It’s due to anxiety.
“The mask has offered teens a way to hide some of their anxiety symptoms and emotions from others, and wearing it has also made many of them feel ‘normal’ and ‘like everybody else,’” writes Emily Sohn.
One psychologist described the “imaginary audience” with which many teens constantly deal: an invisible jury of peers scrutinizing their every decision. Only, in the age of social media, the audience isn’t so “imaginary.”
Masks, by contrast, provide a degree of relief via anonymity. Even if teens feel the need to hide their faces, they were made for face-to-face interaction. The lack of it—whether from isolation or screens—is no way forward.
We have to help students steward technology and their anxieties. A big part of that will mean investing in relationships that are out of the spotlight.
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