As adults, it’s easy to get hanged up in our own troubles. Somewhere in between constant catastrophic news, the shock of the lockdown, financial uncertainty and adjusting to working from home for months, we seem to have forgotten about a group of people hit harder than any of us “grown-ups”: the 12th graders.
To understand why they feel their life just got ruined by a virus, allow me to set the scene: 12 years of school, 8 to 14 or 14 to 19 of sometimes-interesting-but-mostly-not classes, parental supervision most of the time, friends & boyfriends & girlfriends coming and going on a regular basis.
Also: great ambitions for the future, especially the future that involves them leaving their parents’ home and going to this wonderous, full-of-possibilities and excitement place called University. But getting there is not easy – there are exams. For which they study really hard in between school socializing, going out and making out.
Now they’re staying home, isolated from teachers, peers and friends for longer than a month. In order to see how they perceive this whole situation, we interviewed 14 teens in their final year of high school. “The end of the world” is putting it mildly.
We know that 66% of generation Z are either very concerned or extremely concerned about the coronavirus situation in their own country, but that roughly means they worry about their family’s health, ability of their country to keep the situation under control and potential financial repercussions afterwards (GlobalWebIndex, April 2020). For 12th graders, apart from all these concerns, there is one more, very personal: their future being potentially ruined. How come?
Well, there’s the change of plans that is a great cause of stress (keep in mind, they haven’t had the chance to exercise flexibility too much yet). The following next few months were planned down to the day: Baccalaureate at the end of June, University exams at the beginning of July, Electric Castle/Untold afterwards, finding accommodation in the new city in August, and getting everything ready for the big move in September. You can see none of that is going to happen as planned (if at all).
“Thing is… this summer is all fucked up now, and it is literally the most important time in my life so far, as it is for all the 12th graders, and no one knowing when this is all going to end or what’s going to happen to us especially is a cause of great stress.” (Ana, 19)
“I’m stressed, scared, anxious – because I don’t know what’s going to happen with my future. I’m also a bit lonely, but I haven’t said that to anyone because I’m trying to stay positive and hopeful, but it becomes increasingly hard every day.” (Cristian, 19)
Some way or another they’re going to take their exams. But preparation isn’t going so well. Confined to their own room, they do their best to stay focused, but Netflix (+38%), social media (+31%) and video games (+31%) often interfere in their study time (GWI, 2020). The online school is “better than no school at all, but still useless” – there is no structure to it, and it depends very much on the teacher. Some of them are totally uninvolved, while others seem to just learn how to use a computer (not all of them, though – some are fluent in Google Classroom). Overall, a mess.
Another cause of frustration is missing out on life-moments: end of high-school celebrations: “It takes away from me the most beautiful moments of my life, leaving a sour taste that they’ll never be coming back… like the prom.” (Daniela, 19) With dresses and suits already bought, they hope they’ll be allowed to postpone the prom for August. But even that’s uncertain.
So, life is harsh these days for generation Z. How can brands help?
1. Moral support by putting things in perspective for these teens. Most adults around them are too immersed in their own problems, and this is a time when perspective matters a lot. It’s not the end of the world, their future is not ruined – it’s just a summer. There’re going to be plenty more.
2. Moral support by offering them a space to unwind. There’s a lot of tension in their lives, a lot of uncertainty causing either anger or anxiety, often both. Giving them a change to speak up their minds helps (even the interview with us helped, apparently).
3. Help establish a real online school. If you’re a tech brand, the education system needs you ASAP. For infrastructure, consultancy, skilling the teachers, etc.
4. Help digitalize life-moments. Can your brand organize a (pre)prom online, since the real one is going to get postponed?
This generation feels forgotten and sacrificed. We need to help them ease this high school drama that, for them, feels painfully real.
Andreea Apostoliu is Digital Strategist at MRM Romania
These are the times when people need to learn from each other more than ever. Times when sharing knowledge is a practice everyone must embrace for the sake of better tomorrows to come. That’s why at McCann Romania, we decided to create a platform where everyone can share their pieces of advice for the industry in different formats. Strategic Hack is the format where experts prove through different perspectives that pretty much anything can be hacked with strategy.