Alex Paloglou (far right), 17, a junior at California’s San Rafael High School, is a student leader with Beyond Differences, a national nonprofit that promotes social connectedness, belonging, and online kindness. Those behaviors are always concerning, but the combined stress of flattening-the-curve measures, family financial pressure and anxiety over COVID-19’s onslaught could lead to more harsh words online, she said. Chalkbeat recently reported on Zoombombing , a word that didn’t exist a month ago, and which can range from students — or their friends with whom the Zoom link has been illicitly shared — flooding the text-message part of the platform to posting inappropriate photos. Beyond Differences’s mission of reducing social isolation has special implications for homebound teens as well, Paloglou said: “The question is, ‘Who do I call or who do I text?’” As more teens connect via group platforms like Netflix Party , Zoom, Watch2gether,Houseparty , Google Hangouts Meet and Skype, new challenges and opportunities arise. Some celebrities are leading the inclusivity charge by hosting digital parties, like the one D-Nice livestreamed on Instagram, or social media mini-concerts filmed in their homes, as John Legend and others have done. Coupled with the scores of makers and artists offering classes and tutorials online — such as the wildly popular Mo Willems “Lunch Doodles” — generosity and solidarity are, as they say, trending. Teens, especially the current Gen Z crop, she explained, are constantly trying to figure out how to bridge the gap between their desire to unite for a better world and the overscheduled, heavily mediated lives they were born into. Use the No One Eats Alone® Conversation Cards to create a fun group chat activity or post online and invite others to join in using the hashtag #IsolatedNotAlone. The full list can be found on the organization’s website, where Beyond Differences has free lesson plans and resources for middle-school-age students available to download immediately for use at home.
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