Danger of Pandemic Digitalizing Teens’ Social Lives

Karina Zuniga, Staff Reporter

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused us to undergo shutdowns of schools and several other places for months at a time. Having us shelter at home has affected teenagers’ social lives, leaving them to socialize in the online world more than they ever have before. Due to this, predators have flocked to the internet to take advantage of the pandemic, making teenagers targets of online exploitation.

According to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC), teens are more susceptible to the dangers of the internet. They are seeing even more reports of online enticement as a result. In 2020, 21.4 million reports of suspected child sexual exploitation were made to the NCMEC by electronic service providers. This has been the greatest number of reports they have received in one year. Public reports of online enticement have also significantly increased.

One of the ways teenagers socialized online was through social media apps. TikTok, a video sharing app, was one of the apps that became popular amongst teens during the pandemic. TikTok has seen an increase of 130.4% in active users from October 2019 to June 2020. Predators looking for their next victim are a part of this active user growth, contributing to the massive number of reports the NCMEC has seen within the past year.

Another popular app was Discord, a voice, video and text chat app. Junior Kim Thach described her experience of meeting people online through this app, which contained online harassment.

She met people who asked her for explicit images of herself and threatened doxxing, the act of revealing private personal information of a person through the internet.

Senior Mansi Kala shared her feelings on the issue of teens being the targeted age group, saying, “It definitely makes me feel more cautious about what I’m doing on social media.” In order to feel safe online, she takes precautions such as keeping her social media accounts private. Similarly, Sophomore Gerald Mendez feels “it’s nervous at times” but his precautions, such as blocking suspicious people, helps him feel safe online.

Digitalization of teenagers’ social lives because of the pandemic has exposed them to the increase of online exploitation. Our nation is now facing another epidemic that needs to be handled urgently.


Kim Thach, 11th grade

Mansi Kala, 12th grade

Gerald Mendez, 10th grade.