What COVID-19 Has Taught Us About Teenagers

In the spring of 2020, our worlds were turned upside down. And yet, life did go on. Our schools and workplaces adapted. Our favorite restaurants and stores adapted. And we — all of us — did too.

For almost 9 years, we’ve been interviewing teenagers. THOUSANDS of hours of talking to students. Our interviews are a big part of our flagship service, Guided Self Assessment. Our important work has always been about the connection between a student and our facilitator as they walk through conversations and exercises designed to enhance the student’s awareness of their strengths, values, challenges, and preferences so they can make better choices about their future career and college major.

From almost the very start, we interviewed students who weren’t near our home base in Ohio; we always conducted these interviews using online meeting technology. When COVID-19 hit, we easily transitioned to online conversations for every student to adhere to health mandates.

And, what we discovered is surprising….

So, Captain Obvious here: teenagers are VERY comfortable with tech. This is not a surprise of course, but their ability to easily adapt to deep and inquisitive online conversations was a little surprising to us. We can forget that they already have VAST experience communicating via digital means—like no other generation before. They’re almost built for an online world.

They talk to each other while playing video games. They communicate solely through text messages or via “snapped” images. They “chat” in Netflix parties, watching the same movie while miles apart. Their ability to draw nuance from simple words or pictures and then, in turn, be able to express themselves when not face-to-face is incredible.

And many (really, most?) teenagers are MORE comfortable with this method of communication than sitting down face-to-face in a coffee shop. Some students are distracted in a public setting. (Do they know that person that just walked in? What was that sound?) They have a sense of privacy and security in an online conversation when no one else is around. And they are used to communicating this way.

So, what did we learn?

We learned that conducting our whole Guided Self Assessment process virtually did not diminish its value. It can be easy to think of online experiences as “less than,” and perhaps the 1:1 nature of our work hedges against that. From our years of online interviews, we knew it worked well, but the events of this spring allowed us to fine-tune it, build some new tools for supporting students online, and become stronger as an organization. Given the nature of our current reality, this is all good stuff.

And, we have been able to follow the lead of our clever students. Students continue to express themselves well no matter the platform, and all those moments when we observe the body language of the child and other nuanced communication forms are still there.

Lastly, the working world our kids will transition into will be more “online” than any of us can imagine. Interviews are conducted online. Training is delivered online. Meeting and collaboration happen online. Every day, our kids are practicing for that. Our student interviews for Guided Self Assessment give our kids a glimpse of that more professional use of the platform they’ve known and loved….since birth.

When the health and safety of everyone involved is no longer at risk, we’ll be able to confidently provide this valuable service either in person or online knowing that either process will meet the child’s needs because these kids are skilled at using tech to communicate beautifully.

What to learn more about our Guided Self Assessment process? Click to schedule your free 30-minute family meeting.

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