Are teenagers frolicking on beaches or lazing on couches while COVID-19 kills thousands? Youth reporters dispel this misconception.

teenagers youth COVID-19

Ndlovu Youth Choir of South Africa filmed a video showing how to safely wash your hands during the COVID-19 pandemic. (YouTube)

Teenage reporters from 11 news organizations on four continents are producing stories about how young people are helping to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, part of a project to dispel a misconception that youth are apathetic bystanders in the global fight against the disease.

Photos of students lounging on spring break in Miami, youthful Parisians picnicking on the banks of the Seine River and TikTok influencers licking toilets as part of the #CoronaChallenge have broadcast an unsettling message that teenagers don’t care as the coronavirus disease kills thousands around the world.

Aralynn McMane, director of the Global Youth & News Media Prize and a member of News Decoder’s governing board, thinks young people are getting a bad rap.

“I was bugged by what seemed to be the prevailing image of teenagers and twenty-somethings as either careless beach frolickers who bring the virus home to grandma or as couch-sitters whining about their boredom,” McMane said.

Sharing stories about how youth are helping fight COVID-19

So McMane has launched the World Teenage Reporting Project to throw a spotlight on what young people are doing to help during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Newsrooms in eight countries — France, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Russia, South Africa, United Kingdom and United States — plus Hong Kong are participating in the unique project.

Among the participating news organizations is The Eagle Eye, the award-winning student newsmagazine at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed in a mass shooting in 2018.

“Having the Eagle Eye participate will be a great way to share stories of the students in our community who have done things to better the world,” Eagle Eye Editor Dara Rosen said. “This project has the potential to encourage others to do something positive with their time in lockdown.”

Ellis Estrada, who runs PBS NewsHour’s Student Reporting Labs, said the project will “elevate the perspectives of young people doing extraordinary things all over the world.”

Young people, too, are making sacrifices.

Yuri Kanemaki, who runs the youth reporting team at Japan’s largest daily newspaper, Yomiuri Shimbun, said student journalists are eager to change negative perceptions surrounding young people.

“We often see young rogues in the news, but most ‘normal’ young people are not featured,” Kanemaki said. “It’s the big reason why our reporters are eager to write articles for this project. I would like to emphasize how much they are sacrificing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the midst of an important time in their young lives.’’

Before the project was launched, young journalists provided two stories on student-driven initiatives to raise funds for supplies and food, one by Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post’s junior reporting team and the other by The Eagle Eye.

News Decoder is the core media partner for the project, which will continue to accept and share student-reported stories for as long as the pandemic lasts.

“The coronavirus pandemic has changed every aspect of our lives,’’ Estrada said. “Creating a sense of community to support one another is essential.”

Dylan Carlson-Sirvent is an intern at News Decoder. He currently lives in Paris, where he is learning French and taking guitar classes. Carlson-Sirvent will start his university studies at Yale College later this year. He loves reading, playing music and learning languages.

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Health and WellnessTeenagers highlight youth fight against COVID-19
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