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New Survey Reveals Teens' Anxieties, How They're Staying Connected, and Their Struggles with Distance Learning Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic

Common Sense spearheads "Connect All Students" campaign to help families get online during this time

SAN FRANCISCO, April 8, 2020—The spread of the coronavirus has upended life for American teenagers, with 95% reporting the cancellation of in-person classes at their schools. Eight out of 10 teens say they're following news about the coronavirus pandemic closely, and more than 60% are worried that they or someone in their family will be exposed to the virus and that it will have an effect on their family's ability to earn a living, according to a new poll by Common Sense and SurveyMonkey.

The survey also found that teenagers of color, in particular, are more likely to say they're worried about exposure to the virus and the potential economic effects on their families, with Hispanic/Latino teenagers worried most about the impact on their families' abilities to make a living.

School has been disrupted for the majority of students, and many teens don't have regular communication with their teachers.Almost one in four teens say they're connecting with their teachers less than once a week, and 41% haven't attended an online or virtual class since in-person school was canceled. And with 12 million students nationwide living in homes without a broadband connection, the closure of schools has even more serious implications, amplifying existing inequities.

Most teens (83%) are texting to stay in touch, but phone calls are making a surprise comeback as the second most popular means of contact. Social media and video chats are also common; less so are reaching out to a friend or family member they haven't talked to in a while and providing emotional support online to others. About four in 10 teens (42%) feel "more lonely than usual" right now—a number that is higher among girls than boys (49% vs. 36%)—with nearly the same number of teens saying they feel "about as lonely as usual."

"Teenagers are taking the coronavirus threat seriously, with most worried about the impact on their families and exceedingly few eschewing social distancing," says Jon Cohen, chief research officer at SurveyMonkey. "Though most teens are keeping in touch with friends and teachers using technology, more than four in 10 say they feel more lonely and less connected than usual—a concerning indicator for parents and teachers to monitor as the situation continues to unfold."

In response to the pandemic, Common Sense has launched a number of resources to support families and educators who are transitioning to remote learning as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Last week the organization partnered with leading media and technology companies to launch Wide Open School, and it today announced a new effort to close the digital divide and make sure every family has equal access to broadband. #ConnectAllStudents will tap into Common Sense Education's powerful network of more than 910,000 registered educators, including educators representing every state in the United States, to gather teacher and student experiences of the digital divide on commonsensemedia.org/connect-all-students. The campaign calls on Congress to fund devices and broadband service so all students can connect to distance learning this school year. 

"With the majority of kids now learning from home instead of school and, as this poll indicates, struggling to keep connections with teachers, the nation is confronting a huge equity challenge, and it's more critical than ever that students have access to technology for learning and safety no matter where they live," said Jim Steyer, CEO of Common Sense. "That's why Common Sense is calling on Congress to connect all students by providing emergency funds to close the digital divide once and for all. Let's not leave any student behind during this already difficult time."

This latest survey is part of a Common Sense partnership with SurveyMonkey to examine media and technology trends affecting kids and their parents and to share actionable data and insights with families.

Selected key findings

  1. Teens are worried about how the coronavirus will affect their families. Sixty-one percent are worried they or someone in their family will be exposed to the virus, and 63% are worried about the effect it will have on their family's ability to make a living or earn money. Hispanic/Latino teenagers are especially worried about the financial effect: Nearly nine in 10 Hispanic/Latino teens (87%) say they're worried about the impact on their family's ability to make a living.
  2. The coronavirus pandemic is making many teens feel lonely. About four in 10 teens (42%) feel "more lonely than usual" right now—nearly the same number as those who say they feel "about as lonely as usual" (43%). Girls are more likely than boys to say they feel more lonely than usual (49% vs. 36%). 
  3. Texting and social media are providing social outlets for teens. Sixty-five percent of teens report talking to friends or family via texting or social media more often than they usually do, with many (37%) saying they've reached out to a friend or family member they haven't talked to in a while. 
  4. But texting and social media with friends may not be enough. About half of teens (48%) say they feel less connected than usual with their friends right now.
  5. The pandemic is bringing many families together. Forty percent of teens say they feel more connected than usual with their families.
  6. Teens are connecting to others through a variety of means—even phone calls! A majority (59%) of teens say they're connecting with family or friends who are outside their homes at least once a day. The top ways to stay connected to people they can no longer see in person are texting (83%), phone calls (72%), social media (66%), and video chats (66%).
  7. The spread of the coronavirus has upended school for teens, with 95% of 13- to 17-year-olds in the U.S. reporting the cancellation of in-person classes at their schools. Slightly more than half of teens who no longer attend school in person say they're worried about not being able to keep up with their schoolwork (56%) and their extracurricular activities (55%) while in-person school activities are canceled. Black and Hispanic/Latino teens are significantly more likely than White teens to be worried about keeping up with schoolwork. Girls are more likely than boys to say they're worried about keeping up with both schoolwork and extracurriculars.

Methodology: This SurveyMonkey Audience survey was conducted March 24 to April 1, 2020, among 849 teenagers age 13 to 17 in the United States. Respondents for this survey were selected from more than 2 million people who take surveys on the SurveyMonkey platform each day. The modeled error estimate for the full sample is plus or minus 4.0 percentage points. Data has been weighted for age and sex using the Census Bureau's American Community Survey to reflect the demographic composition of the United States age 13 to 17. Find the full survey results and more information about Common Sense research here

About Common Sense

Common Sense is the nation's leading nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in the 21st century. Learn more at commonsense.org.

About SurveyMonkey

SurveyMonkey (NASDAQ: SVMK) is a leading global survey software company on a mission to power the curious. The company’s People Powered Data platform empowers over 17 million active users to measure and understand feedback from employees, customers, website and app users, and the market.

SurveyMonkey’s products, enterprise solutions and integrations enable more than 335,000 organizations to solve daily challenges, from delivering better customer experiences to increasing employee retention. With SurveyMonkey, organizations around the world can transform feedback into business intelligence that drives growth and innovation. Learn more about SurveyMonkey at surveymonkey.com.

Contacts:

Cassandra Matter
Common Sense
cmatter@commonsense.org
(408) 960-5115

Sandra Gharib
SurveyMonkey
sandrag@surveymonkey.com

*Spanish speakers available for interviews upon request. Contact Andrea Moreno at amoreno@commonsense.org.

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