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Youths don't deserve to be blasted unfairly during COVID-19


OpinionsHealth & Body

Youths in Singapore have been portrayed as irresponsible during the health pandemic. But this isn't justified.

Irresponsible, self-centred and inconsiderate. This is how youths have been portrayed by some media outlets during the COVID-19 period. 

Invariably, these videos and articles have shaped public perspectives, resulting in criticisms being hurled at youths in general. 

A disgruntled comment on a Rice Media video portraying Singaporean youths as not taking social distancing seriously.

However, portraying youths in such a manner or identifying them as the main source of our problems is not only an inaccurate assessment of them, but also does more harm than good. 

Granted, it might evoke feelings of humiliation, which may shame teens and young adults into staying home. Yet such posts have sensationalised youths' lack of responsibility by highlighting the black sheep, who do not represent the larger population. 

In fact, most youths have taken steps to be socially responsible

In terms of attitudes towards the pandemic, an NYC-Milieu poll of 500 youths from Mar 24-25 showed that 77 per cent were actually in favour of banning all public gatherings. The affirmative vote reveals that youths are, in fact, willing to give up activities they enjoy to contain the spread of the virus. 

Among youths, peer pressure has also resulted in decisions to stay home. In more extreme cases, some youths even resorted to shaming friends who act irresponsibly on public platforms. 

Others remind their friends to stay home via direct messages if they see their friends posting about gatherings and social activities.

Personally, it is comforting to see how my own friends have acted responsibly. 

A group of schoolmates who were studying overseas decided to serve their stay-home notices (SHN) in a separate house from their families as a precaution. 

Another friend who recovered from COVID-19 has stayed home since being discharged from the hospital. 

And it's not just a few friends who are socially responsible. 

I put up a poll on my Instagram account to find out if my friends had gone out "one last time" before the circuit breaker kicked in, with a caveat that responses would remain anonymous. Of the 107 respondents, 86 per cent said that they did not. 

In a second informal poll that I conducted, all 146 respondents declared that they hadn't tried to surreptitiously meet up with friends or been in any social gatherings since circuit breaker measures were introduced. 

The response to my Instagram poll on whether Singaporean youths went out "one last time" before circuit breaker measures were implemented was heartening.

These numbers reflect that a sizable number of youths have in fact exercised caution, opting to stay home rather than "prowl the night away" as some media sites might have us believe. 

During this uncertain and bleak period, it is natural to want to point fingers at a specific group to explain the recent spike in COVID-19 cases. 

Media reports that direct the blame towards one group aren't particularly helpful. Not only does this over-generalise the group by tarring everyone with the same brush, it also disregards the fact that everyone – and not just youths – plays a role in contributing to the problem. 

The auntie who stood too close to you while queuing up at NTUC, the uncles who continue loitering at coffee shops despite warnings from the authorities and the middle-aged parents who insisted on the family visiting their aged grandparents all share some responsibility in exacerbating the problem. 

Reminders to flatten the curve by staying home are important. But instead of humiliating our youths into action, shouldn't we empower them to do the right thing by highlighting positive examples that more accurately represent them in the first place? 


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