We've all gone digital, right!?!! Not all of us it turns out. Who would have thought that hand written letters would come back into fashion? But some young people are writing to friends every day - inspired by a broken phone and a Harry Potter writing set that sat unused in a bedroom. 

I think that being a teenager during lockdown must be the most difficult age.  So I went out (digitally of course) and asked some of the young people we are working with how they have found lockdown. 

Like the rest of us, there is a really mixed response. Creative Youth Network works with some of the most vulnerable young people and one young woman said that she “has been in lockdown for the last year because of her anxiety and depression - everyone is having to live like me now”. 

One care leaver who lives in a one room flat described lockdown as:

like being in prison - the room is smaller than a cell

Futures are at risk

Some are worried about their futures:

I'm finding it difficult to look for jobs at the moment. I've done a bricklaying course but no one is looking for people at the moment.  I'm worried about whether there will be any jobs when we come out of lockdown.

Digital poverty

There is false information flying around too. Refugees who don't have English as a first language are struggling to get clear messages and sometimes social media is not the best place to get information.  Some young people have no digital access in the first place.  Meaning they are missing school and the support they might otherwise receive.

To help tackle this Creative Youth Network distributed over 70 tablets to young people with no access to the internet - some because they were in temporary accommodation, others because they are sharing a phone with their mum or dad and aren't able to access school, activities and support online.

Some even admitted to missing school: “I find it difficult to concentrate at home and get my work done”. The structure of school is helpful it seems. Others find it easier to work at home though - one young person said she found it “easier without social and teacher pressure”.  

Some problems are a little more 'first world': “My mum cut my hair - I went upstairs and my sister saw me, screamed and ran off saying there was a stranger in the house!”

But the overwhelming response I got was “I'm bored, I want to see my friends”. Houseparty and TikTok are all very well but it's not the same as meeting up with your mates.  “I miss seeing my friends and I just find it difficult to concentrate when everything is on a screen”. 

Services continue online

Tempting as it may be, the good news is young people are staying at home! Creative Youth Network key workers have been out and about to make sure young people are getting the message and they have seen very few young people on the streets.

Instead, young people are turning to online activities. Creative Youth Network has opened all of its youth clubs online.  Our Creative Courses are busier than ever and the waiting list continues to grow.

Creativity is a lifeline

Lockdown has inspired young people too.  Some have taken up art or music, many are trying new things and our young creatives have been making art inspired by lockdown.

Most are enjoying more time with their parents too and some are inspired by the sense of community: “outdoor karaoke with our neighbours” was a highlight for one despite “mum bringing out a microphone”.

But when lockdown starts to ease off, expect our young people to be bursting with energy. One of Creative Youth Networks young trustees summed it up by saying: “We are just going to want to express ourselves in whatever way we can!”. Watch out for a burst of creativity in the coming months.

Youth services after the lockdown

When our doors open again, we will welcome this energy and we’ll continue to provide a safe space where we can continue to build relationships with young people.

As a recent article in The Guardian points out, there are now 2 million more vulnerable eight to 19-year-olds needing help because of the pandemic, according to new research from the National Youth Agency.

Our work is more vital than ever to ensure this generation’s future is not jeopardised by this difficult time in all our lives.

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