Few things shape a young person’s view of the covid-19 pandemic more than the media.
While news coverage causes stress and anxiety in some, others said they found it beneficial to stay up to date.
In wide ranging interviews with Youth Journalism International, young people from around the globe shared their approach to keeping up with news about the coronavirus pandemic.
While some said they are not staying up to date with the news due to the detrimental effect it has on their mental health, others sought to stay informed.
Swedish 18-year-old Pegah Moradi, from Stockholm, said she does keep up with the news, but it makes her sad.
Avoiding the news
Most who said they avoid the news blamed it on anxiety.
“This causes me anxiety so no, I’m not keeping up with the news,” said Antonella Cardoso, 15, of Quito, Ecuador.
Aliyah Kassam, 17, from the Stanmore borough of London, expressed a similar thought. She said keeping up with the news took a toll on her, making her feel “anxious and stressed.”
Uncertainty played a part in Crystal Palmer’s decision to avoid news coverage. The 20-year-old from Melbourne, Australia said initial projections about the length of the lockdown caused her anxiety.
The sheer volume of discouraging news about the virus can be overwhelming.
“I never watch the news,” said Aaron Foster, a 17-year-old from the borough of Bexley in London, explaining it “doesn’t cause anxiety, just makes me a bit depressed as it’s mostly all sad, and not uplifting.”
Kassam, a 12th year student, said people should “focus on what we can do, not what we can’t.” Kassam stays up to date on the news, but found that it takes a toll on her mental health.
News stories about hygiene and rules for washing hands are “heightening levels of anxiety,” said Lara McGlone, 18, also of London.
The need to know
For some youth, watching the news is good for their mental health.
Muhammad Tariq, 22, a student in Nicosia, Cyprus said it is more stressful to be shut off and unaware.
“This is the reality, because of this pandemic we are stuck at our homes now so we can’t just ignore it,” Tariq said.
Others, like 15-year old Li Zing Yi from Beijing turn to the news as a beacon of hope.
“I have faith in our advancing modern health system and I see more people recovering from the sickness every day,” Yi said.
Many, like 17-year-old Vedat Burak Şanel of Istanbul, see keeping up with current events and news extremely important.
“I like being informed and staying realistic,” said Şanel.
Dhekra Abbessi, a 19-year- old from Soussa, Tunisia, expressed a similar view.
“Absolutely, I watch,” Abbessi said, “and keep tracking its updates every day. “
Ben Trad, a 21-year-old university student from Melbourne, Australia also views being well-informed as important and inevitable.
“Everyone’s being forced to go through it,” Trad said. “I shouldn’t be complaining too much because there’s people that have it a lot worse situations at home, for example, and they’re being forced to isolate with people they might not be comfortable with.”
Maria Vitiadou, 20, a former biology student from Athens, Greece said that she simply tries to keep up with the science around covid-19.
Finding a balance
Though many young people are determined to follow the news, others changed their habits and stopped paying strict attention.
Maryam Azimpour, 18 from Tehran, Iran and Chambie Elliott, 15 from Klein, Texas expressed a shared approach: they get the necessary news from their parents.
Elliott said she already knows the precautions to take, so she sees no reason to further stress herself.
Others put emphasis on their anxiety levels, saying their own commitment to following the news cycle evolved throughout the pandemic.
Sevgi Eda Keskin, 18, of Istanbul said that she would regularly check covid-19 statistics at the early stages of the pandemic, but stopped when she found it had a negative impact on her mental state.
“I occasionally see updates but I don’t follow it religiously,” Keskin said. ”I am not interested anymore.”
“I was listening to the news before but not now,” said Binnet Roberts, 22, from the Gambia.
Reem Fayed, 16, from Mechanicsville, Virginia spoke of a similar experience.
“For the first couple of weeks, after they canceled school, I was up to date on everything,” Fayed said, but added that things changed. “I don’t want to check the news because it really does stress me out. So, for me, it’s just better to not know anything, my brain is set on, ‘Oh, this is gonna end soon.’”
Fayed said she is “just trying to push through” a difficult time.
Finding the balance between drowning in news and being carelessly unaware is a struggle for most young people.
“It’s okay not to read the news every day,” said Jomel Goh, 18, of Singapore.
It would be more stressful to not know, said Jamie Sampson, 21, of London.
It is also difficult to avoid the news, even if it does cause anxiety, said Trad.
“It’s one of those things where even if I’m not watching it live as updates are coming out, I know it’ll be all over the internet within half an hour or so,” he said. “I just want to know what I can do!”
This story was reported by Salma Amrou in Suffolk, Virginia; Mariama Barry in Coastal Road, The Gambia; Aileen Cevallos in Quito, Ecuador; Nisha Chandar-Nair in Lincoln, England; Alyce Collett in Melbourne, Australia; Rosie Evans in Liverpool, England; Bilge Nur Güven in Istanbul; Holly Hostettler-Davies in Bridgend, Wales; Chuying Huo in Ontario, Canada; Erin Kim in Andover, Massachusetts; Manar Lezaar in Fez, Morocco; Katrina Machetta in Spring, Texas; Lyat Melese in Alexandria, Virginia; Nivetha Nandakumar in Cardiff, Wales; Purnima Priyadarsini in Bhubaneswar, India; Aimee Shah in London; Parnian Shahsavary in Tehran, Iran; Lucy Tobier in Ann Arbor, Michigan and Daisy Wigg in Dartford, England. It was written by Bilge Nur Güven, Lucy Tobier and Nisha Chandar-Nair. Chuying Huo made the cover illustration.
Covid Mood is a global project by Youth Journalism International examining how the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 impacted mental health among the world’s young people. Its 17 news stories and accompanying photos and illustrations are by 21 students from a dozen nations on six continents. Together, they interviewed 56 teenagers and young adults in 18 countries and mental health professionals from five different nations. All Covid Mood stories are accessible here.