On September 15, 2023, NBC Bay Area published a story about the slew of fights plaguing Westmont that week. “Wild and out of control” is how parents described these fights to NBC. But Westmont isn’t the only school suffering through violent outbursts. In reality, the nation’s educational institutions have been lit ablaze by newfound antagonism in post-quarantine school systems. A study by the National Center for Education Statistics found that 46% of American schools have witnessed an abhorrent uptake in campus violence since returning to in-person school (nces.ed.gov). The increase in student aggression since re-entering campuses leaves America with one question: what did COVID do to make students so aggressive?
Though the full breadth of developmental impacts social distancing catalyzed remains unknown, health organizations are beginning to piece together some juvenile side effects. According to a study published by the National Library of Medicine, long term social isolation “can aggravate or generate functional and behavioral difficulties” for children or adolescents, incurring deficiencies in cognitive and emotional development (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov). Lacking emotional and cognitive maturity alone implicitly increases the likelihood of conflict, but accounting for the jarring distancing, death, and uncertainty brought on via lockdown, one could safely assume COVID-19 provoked a gargantuan wave of adolescent behavioral issues. When returning to campus, students’ stunted growth and bottled negativity didn’t evaporate, instead spilling over in the form of increased fighting and overall immature behavior.
Additionally, the prevalence of the internet in COVID development didn’t do any favors for self conduct. For most people, the sole source of social-distant socialization beyond the family unit was through the internet. America is well versed in the toxicity of internet culture; a pungent fusion of total anonymity and dehumanizing detachment cultivating an impressive level of inane madness with a side of intense indignation. Not only is it nigh impossible to convey emotion through text messages, all behavioral constraints are off the table; anybody can be as nasty as desired in the comfort of private group chats and discomfort of Twitter(X).
When these heinous tendencies are applied outside of quarantine, the anonymity is removed and the consequences rapidly reveal themselves. Moreover, the internet doesn’t require conflict resolution skills, but school life does—we all have to see each other everyday, so to some extent we have to be confronted by our actions, mandating a level of accountability absent from quarantine. But, after being forced to text it out for a significant portion of adolescent development, many appear to not know how to talk it out, leading to increased infighting within student bodies.
Overall, quarantine didn’t just scar America’s student population, it downright enraged us. Through lower cognitive and emotional development and a hyper reliance on the internet, COVID instilled a combativeness poisoning classrooms and stealing eyes. But, hey, at least our football team is still pretty good #GoWarriors.