“They had a sense of resilience and ‘grit’, even prepandemic which I think served them well,” she said. “I see an ability to pan.”
In Dr. Luther’s research actually regressed reports of loneliness for seventh and eighth grade students between spring 2020 and spring 2021 – a reflection of how she suspects how alienating and lonely middle school is for many of them in “normal” times. (“The loners, the introverts, the kids who weren’t popular – they’re fine, thank you,” she said.)
Other new data suggests that the youngest teens may have got through the pandemic year with slightly less wear and tear than older teens. In the fall of 2020, a research team led by psychologist Angela L. Duckworth of the University of Pennsylvania surveyed more than 6,500 high school students in a large, demographically diverse school district where families could choose whether their children would attend remotely or in school Person.
They found that students who attended school from a distance, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status, exhibited significantly lower social, emotional, and academic wellbeing – with the exception of ninth graders, whose level remained roughly the same. (And who for most of the 20th century were considered to be in the same developmental category as seventh and eighth grade students, teaching in middle schools.)
Overall, according to Dr. Steinberg, the youth who fared best during the pandemic were more likely to be the ones who were able to keep in touch with their friends. And for many middle school students, that means having parents willing to relax their usual rules on social media and screen time.
“Social media mitigates some of the effects of isolation,” he said.
This message, often echoed by experts and educators, should provide some relief to the many parents who feel guilty about the screen time they have given their children over the past year.
Rabiah Harris, a Washington public middle school science teacher, holds a PhD in education that, as the mother of a nearly 12-year-old, allows her to take a philosophical viewpoint.