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Survey: Teens Are Worried About Coronavirus, Especially Teens of Color

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Despite being at lower risk of getting seriously ill with COVID-19, most teenagers are worried about the coronavirus and the effect it could have on themselves and their families.

Those concerns are heightened among teens of color who are reporting in larger numbers than white students that they are concerned about their families' exposure—physically and economically. 

That's according to a new poll by Common Sense Media, a San Francisco based nonprofit that studies the impact of technology on children and young people.

Six in 10 teens overall are worried about being exposed to the coronavirus and their families' ability to earn money.

Eighty-seven percent of Latino teens say they are concerned about the financial fallout from the pandemic and how it will affect their families' ability to earn money, while 74 percent of black teens report the same.

When it comes to getting exposed to the coronavirus—whether it's themselves or their family members—71 percent of black teens and 66 percent of Latino teens say that's something they are worried about.

By comparison, 56 percent of white students are concerned about getting exposed to the coronavirus and 53 percent are worried that it will affect their family's ability to earn money.

That gap among white teens and teens of color may reflect reality: Data emerging from virus-stricken communities across the nation suggest that African-American communities are getting particularly hard hit by the pandemic.

The findings also show that most teenagers—80 percen—say they are closely following news about coronavirus.

How well teens feel they are keeping up with their schoolwork also varies significantly based on race.

Overall, more than half of teens—56 percent—who are no longer physically attending school say they're worried about not being able to keep up with their schoolwork. Fifty-five percent report the same for extracurriculars.

But black and Latino students are significantly more concerned than white students about keeping up with their schoolwork. Seventy percent of Latino and 62 percent of black students say they are worried about keeping up with their schoolwork compared to 49 percent of white students.

Connecting to Teachers, Friends, and Family

Many teens report that they are not in regular contact with their teachers. Nearly a quarter of survey respondents say they're in touch with their teachers less than once a week while 36 percent say they are connecting with their teacher once a day or more. Forty-one percent say they haven't participated in online classes since their school buildings were closed. That's even though 86 percent said their teachers are still assigning schoolwork.

As a point of comparison, teachers reported in a recent Education Week Research Center survey where 22 percent said they interacted with the majority of their students weekly. Nearly a quarter of teachers said they interacted with students at least once a week and 29 percent said they did so daily.

Furthermore, while most teens report that they have a dedicated space at home to do their schoolwork, more than a quarter still lack one.

Forty-two percent of teens report that they feel more lonely than usual right now. That's especially true of girls of whom 49 percent say they are feeling lonelier compared to 36 percent of boys.

Whether students are particpating in online classes didn't change how lonely they reported feeling or how worried they are about falling behind on schoolwork.

So how are teens staying in touch with one another while they're out of school? Eighty-three percent are texting, but old-fashioned phone calls are the second most popular form of contact. Seventy-two percent say they are picking up the phone to talk to family and friends.

Four in 10 teens say they are feeling more connected than usual with their families.

The survey was conducted between March 24 and April 1, 2020 and included 849 U.S. teenagers from ages 13 to 17.

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