We usually hear about teenagers from adults, not from the teenagers themselves. On Wednesday, March 31 at 18:30 (EET), SNF DIALOGUES, a series of events held through journalism nonprofit iMEdD (the incubator for Media Education and Development), hosted an online discussion by teenagers and for teenagers.
Eleven teenagers ages 15 to 18 from major urban areas and remote villages in Greece, participants in a program by the nonprofit Tipping Point to connect high school and university students with mentors, took the microphone as panelists at the 41st DIALOGUES event, sharing what they think the rest of us ought to know about them. From the label of “digital natives,” to the education they are receiving, to questions of appropriate and responsible behavior during the pandemic and beyond, to the psychological impact of COVID-19, the teenage panelists talked about their lives and their concerns. They answered questions from peers and parents alike in a discussion that saw huge audience participation, garnering hundreds of questions and comments.
“What characterizes our generation is that we are constantly connected,” said Mary Avgerinakou (16, 1st Grade in High School, Amfikleia) adding, “Education, shopping, contact with friends: they all take place online.” On the idea that Gen Z is a generation of “digital natives,” Giorgos Gkrestas (16, 1st Grade in High School, Ioannina) commented, “Our smartphones are an extension of our hands. We don’t only use them for fun, but also for work. The internet is a part of everyday life, and I don’t think this will change in the future.” As for social media, Stavroula-Maria Stenou (16, 1st Grade in High School, Limnos) observed that “the possibilities for tailored customization offered by social media help you create a microcosm where you feel comfortable and where you don’t feel judged, without this having an impact on your real life. You feel omnipotent, and you can only get that feeling on the internet.” On how they stay informed and their relationship with the news media, Elpida Besi (16, 1st Grade in High School, Nea Smyrni) said, “The internet is widely used to gather rapid and reliable news information, if you know where to look. I think it also offers another advantage: we can pick and choose which news items to focus on and share that information with our peers.”
Assessing Greece’s academic system and the education young people are receiving, Stelios Voskakis (18, 3rd Grade in High School, Rethymno) said, “The current education system is characterized by two words: degradation and underfunding. The greatest affliction, which has not been dealt with at all so far, is private cram schools. All of us experience great insecurity. We are growing up in a society where the importance of the Panhellenic Exams is constantly increasing.” Commenting on the new experience of distance learning that every student has undergone in the past year, Evangelia Ilioglou (16, 1st Grade in High School, Kallithea) said, “It is definitely not the right way to learn, but there was no other solution. However, we were given an opportunity to do things we wouldn’t have been able to do if we were at school. Acknowledging the problems that exist, we must always look on the positive side.” Eleni Miha (17, 2nd Grade in High School, Aspropyrgos) added that “no matter how good the e-learning system is, we are now very tired of it. We talk and read in front of a screen every day. We need to go back to school.” On issues of curriculum content, including the absence of sex education courses and information on substance use, Ioanna Peolidou (15, 3rd Grade in Middle School, Marousi) said, “Sex education in schools is nonexistent. Unfortunately, in Greece, most students resort to external sources to learn about sexuality, while the subject of substance use is mentioned because it is part of the curriculum.”
Chasan Molla-Oglou (17, 2nd Grade in High School, Xanthi) noted older people’s concerns about appropriate behavior by young people, giving the trap music popular among teenagers as an example, commenting that “trap music is now in fashion, but that doesn’t mean that it always will be. You are not the music you listen to. Everyone listens to different kinds of music.” Responding to perceptions of the responsibility young people bear in the pandemic, Selvina Ymerai (16, 1st Grade in High School, Vardas Ilias) commented, “It is not just young people’s fault… They accused us of not being careful, of not wearing a mask, and then older adults would go on the news on TV, not wearing a mask or saying they don’t believe in the virus.” Anastasia Kampouridi (16, 1st Grade in High School, Spata), meanwhile, stressed that “since we are all living through a pandemic, it is impossible for only certain groups of people to be at fault. Yes, young people have a responsibility, but we are not the only ones. It is important that we all think about the collective good.”
Watch the DIALOGUES webcast, “Generation Z: What do teenagers wish we knew?” at snfdialogues.org
The DIALOGUES are curated and moderated by Anna-Kynthia Bousdoukou.
*The opinions expressed by DIALOGUES participants, whether representing officially institutions and organizations or themselves, are solely their own and do not necessarily represent the views of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) or iMEdD. Speakers’ remarks are made freely, without prior guidance or intervention from the team.