OPINION: How the pandemic is affecting teenage essential workers

Teenage essential workers perform their duties at the Chic-fil-a in Lake Worth.

Mariah Hanna

Teenage essential workers perform their duties at the Chic-fil-a in Lake Worth.

When the pandemic became a major problem this spring in the US, many businesses, like hair salons, tattoo parlors and many more, were shut down in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. Meanwhile, businesses like grocery stores and restaurants, were kept open and were deemed “essential”.

Teenagers, many of whom hold these jobs, were considered essential workers, were kept open. Now, with school going on, being a teenage worker is harder than ever with balancing work, school and on top of all of that, quarantine.

Since students are allowed to attend school online, some teachers assume students have more free time during the day to get work done, so teachers give more homework than normal. By having to work and continue to go to school everyday, the stress of it all adds up. Some students have to sacrifice good grades in order to work every day. Sophie Bethune writes in her article, “Teen Stress Rivals that of Adults,” , “Teens reported that their stress levels during the school year far exceeded what they believe to be healthy (5.8 vs. 3.9 on a 10-point scale) and topped adults’ average reported stress levels (5.8 for teens vs. 5.1 for adults).” She also mentions that teens have reported being overwhelmed, depressed and sad because of stress. Add working on top of that and that’s a perfect equation for a teen to get overwhelmed. Some students have gotten to the point where they don’t care about bad grades, as long as they pass the class, which isn’t good for anyone.

Another thing that affects teen essential workers is having to quarantine. With schools being open to in-person learning, students are far more likely to either get COVID or come in contact with someone who does. When they have close contact, the school requires the student to go home and quarantine for up to two weeks. This majorly affects their job because now they can’t go to work since most essential businesses require a negative COVID test before they can come back. Now, teen jobs are some of the most important positions because they are essential. Not just for the economy, but for personal reasons as well. Teens, especially upperclassmen teens, are having to pay for college classes, car payments and even gas. And with the holiday season here, teens need the money for Christmas presents for friends and family. Students having to quarantine themselves is bad, but so is watching coworkers and friends get exposed as well. Having to go to school and seeing other students and friends have to go home from exposure or a positive COVID test also affects teens mental health because it’s unknown as to what could happen. Then, at work, if someone gets quarantined and can’t find someone to work the shift, their work would be short an employee and if multiple coworkers get quarantined, then the problem compounds itself. This might cause the teen to have to work extra hours and get behind on school.

Although the pandemic affects everyone, teenage essential workers have to deal with extra homework, stress, quarantine, extra work hours, and watching other people get COVID and quarantine. In order to help teens through this difficult time, there needs to be major reforms within school, such as scaling back on homework and giving students more time to work on assignments rather than only one day. With work, businesses shouldn’t rely on teens to fill absent employees. By making these small changes, then teens would have a better time dealing with the pandemic.

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