There is a disturbing new dangerous trend occurring in teenagers that parents need to know about so they can talk to their teenager. We know that many teenagers feel a sense of being invulnerable and nothing bad will happen to them and their friends. It appears that teenagers in Alabama are putting this belief to the ultimate test (CDC, CNN). As a result, they are risking their lives, their friends lives and the lives of their families for a few hundred dollars.
The starting point of this risky behavior is in Alabama and city mayors and paramedics have heard about the risky behavior and they are very concerned. Teenagers are having Coronavirus parties. They invite people who are infected with the virus to a party and then they sell tickets to the party to their friends and other teenagers. The first person who can provide proof from a physician that they have contracted the virus after attending the party wins all the money that was collected. Teens are using social media and word of mouth to advertise these Coronavirus parties. They do not consider how dangerous these parties are and that they are playing Russian Roulette with their lives and with the lives of any one they come in contact with after the party.
We know that teenagers brains are not fully developed until they are 25 years old and the last part of the brain developing is the prefrontal cortex. This part of the brain is responsible for more advanced functions such as reasoning and dealing with abstract concepts. Therefore, when the White House and President Trump are saying 99% of Coronavirus infections are not serious, some teenagers will listen to President Trump. Also when President Trump states we have the virus under control, again some teenagers will listen. They have difficulties reconciling statements from Dr. Fauci and the University of Washington which indicate the virus is not under control and reaching very dangerous levels in our Country. They are not sure who to believe. Also most teenagers don’t listen to a lot of news so they are not aware that United State citizens cannot fly to Europe because the virus is so much out of control in the United States that other countries don’t want to expose their citizens to the virus again. Even if you want to go to New York, the state of New York is requiring people to go into a 14 day quarantine. New York finally has the virus under control in their state and Governor Cuomo is doing what he needs to so New York keeps the virus under control. Therefore, since teenagers are hearing the virus is not a big threat and the President refuses to wear a mask, they are not aware how the virus is really impacting people or how dangerous it can be.
As a result, these Coronavirus parties don’t seem very dangerous to them and they could win $200. They are unaware that they can die from the Coronavirus. An 11 year old boy died in Florida from the Coronavirus so children do die from the Coronavirus (CDC). They also are unaware of the risk they are taking with their families lives. These parties seem like fun to them. It is summer and they are looking for ways to have fun especially having been in quarantine for the past 2 months. Additionally, no one can give them definite answers about school yet. Maybe they will be going to school on line or maybe they are going back to school part time. How they resume school also has an impact on their ability to see their friends and have fun hanging out with their friends. Therefore, they are dealing with a lot of uncertainty that no one can answer right now. However, these parties mean fun with their friends now, they can win some money and the President is saying they don’t need to worry about the virus. As a result, it is easy for their brains to decide to go to the party and have fun with their friends. Currently, it’s the only answer that makes sense to them when they look at how the President and the government are responding to the pandemic.
We are in the middle of a global pandemic. As of today, 136,000 people in the United States have died from the Coronavirus (CDC). Today another 792 people in the United States died (CDC). When we have hundreds of people dying everyday from the Coronavirus, we should not be making this a political issue. All this accomplishes are more people getting infected and more people dying. It also increases the amount of stress and anxiety that our children and teenagers are experiencing. This anxiety results in more teenagers needing psychotherapy for anxiety disorders and more teenagers turning to alcohol, drugs (CDC) and now Coronavirus parties as a way to cope.
Parents what your teenagers need from you is for you to discuss the current situation with them and what are the current recommendations from the CDC. For example, when they go outside they need to wear a face mask and to keep 6 feet in between them and other people. Also to wash their hands regularly and to avoid touching their faces when they are out. Also have an age appropriate conversation about how dangerous the virus can be. Therefore, explain to teenagers how these Coronavirus parties are very dangerous. They can also transmit the virus to other family members or friends who have other health conditions resulting in that person’s death. Furthermore, if they do catch the virus some studies are showing people can have life long after effects such as depression or neurological issues. Overall the message should be since we do not know what this virus can do, it’s not something to ignore and needs to be taken seriously.
Discuss that you understand there are conflicting reports at times and this can be confusing. Therefore, if they hear things that are confusing or friends saying things that do not make sense, they should ask you. Together you can discuss the confusing information and look up the latest information on the CDC website or your county’s Coronavirus website. Bottom line explain that yes this is a very confusing time but if you work together as a family you can help each other to understand what is happening and to stay safe. Let the politicians play games with their careers and lives, but not your children’s or family’s lives.
Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 20 years experience treating children and teenagers. For more information about his other work or private practice visit his website at http://www.RubinoCounseling.com or his Facebook page at facebook.com/drrubino3.