By Bhasker Bhandare

When social distancing measures were announced in March, thousands of students had to quickly throw their possessions into suitcases, bid goodbye to university friends and return to their homes. The summer months stretch out into a flat expanse of nothingness. It is always said that teenage years are the prime of every person before he or she finally becomes an adult, but it’s the opposite. I would say that being a teenager is the most difficult time as there is complete uncertainty, you are somewhere between being a kid and adult where people expect that you should take up the responsibility, speak up for yourself and behave in a mature manner, but the moment you start taking control the same people stop you and say you are still a child. There are many things going on in a teenager’s mind along with mood swings, peer pressures and the lack of decision-making abilities.
It’s not just their social lives that teenagers are missing. Away from stereotypes of tabloid lore, some conscientious young people crave the satisfaction of passing through examinations into adult life. If exam season is a corset, afterwards there is the sweet release of slouching into a summer free of obligations. For diligent students, the sudden cancellation of exams can be disorienting. There’s an emotional component; young people who haven’t had exams cancelled are also concerned. Some educationists believe the virus could accelerate our progression towards more online models of teaching. The government will have to give the whole area of education technology much more focus, in case the situation gets worse. For those who had already made it to university, there is a different set of challenges. Stripped of their social networks and plunged back into a childhood holding pattern, many are struggling. Previous studies have shown that teenagers and young adults are among the loneliest people. It’s assumed that young people are unlikely to be seriously affected by the virus and are mostly in isolation to stop transmission to others – but many are in high-risk groups themselves. What might be the long-term consequences of so many months stuck indoors for a young person who already struggles with their mental health? A lot of people are drawing analogies with the great depression.
According to a study young people feel stress more acutely than adults: tests on lab rats find that adolescent rats struggle to turn off their stress response as quickly as adult rats do. The general neural systems that regulate emotion and executive function are still a work in progress. That means that the brain is more susceptible to life disruptions than a fully matured brain. There is evidence from what we know about neural development that this could have a longer-lasting impact on teenagers than adults. Many parents do not understand why their teenagers occasionally behave in an impulsive, irrational or dangerous way. At times, it seems like teens don’t think things through or fully consider the consequences of their actions. Adolescents differ from adults in the way they behave, solve problems and make decisions. There is a biological explanation for this difference. Studies have shown that brains continue to mature and develop throughout childhood and adolescence and well into early adulthood. Scientists have identified a specific region of the brain called the amygdala that is responsible for immediate reactions including fear and aggressive behaviour. This region develops early. However, the frontal cortex, the area of the brain that controls reasoning and helps us think before we act, develops later. This part of the brain is still changing and maturing well into adulthood.
Other changes in the brain during adolescence include a rapid increase in the connections between the brain cells and making the brain pathways more effective. Nerve cells develop myelin, an insulating layer that helps cells communicate. All these changes are essential for the development of coordinated thought, action and behaviour. But the virus situation feels different. For starters, young people can’t pin badges to their chests and go out to protest against the virus. They can’t do anything really, apart from obeying their parents’ house rules. The virus is more than just an existential fear: it has also put the brakes on reaction, rebellion or the generational search for answers. Once the dust settles, young people will have to reconsider their futures in a rapidly shifting world. Things aren’t going to go back to normal. The young are going to play an active part in either destroying or creating a new world.
Every teenager is a scared adult as every teenager has some fears, uncertainties and has come across some very bad situations during their school or teenage days. Almost everyone has come out of it. Any adult that we come across today if asked upon their fears during their school days would surely have one story to tell. But history has taught us that situations don’t remain the same. I agree with the fact that the world is radically uncertain, full of promise but also doubt. Will the kids be all right? Is most common question that scares every parent. I say the kids will always be all right. I have great faith in young people and their ability to see what is wrong with the world and come up with solutions.