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How One Teen Is Fighting Social Isolation One Conversation At a Time

Social isolation refers to a situation in which an individual is isolated from social interactions and relationships with others. This can occur due to a variety of factors, such as physical distance, cultural differences, social anxiety, or a lack of available social connections. 

Social isolation has negative impacts on an individual’s mental and physical health, as well as on their overall well-being. People need to have social connections and relationships with others to thrive and feel a sense of belonging.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic has had an immense impact on the prevalence of social isolation and anxiety, especially among teenagers. With this in mind, one Georgian teenager decided to find a way to mitigate the negative impact of social isolation through The Conversation Game

The effect of Covid-19 on social isolation in teenagers

Covid-19 has had a significant impact on socialization and relationships, particularly for high school students. Many schools had to implement remote learning or hybrid models, which made it more difficult for students to connect with their peers and form relationships. 

In addition, social distancing measures and restrictions on gatherings limited opportunities for socialization outside of school. As a result, it was not uncommon for high school students to experience social isolation during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Even though it is difficult to provide accurate statistics on social isolation in teenagers during the Covid-19 pandemic seeing as the data on this topic is still being collected and analyzed, there have been several studies that have looked at the impact of the pandemic on socialization and mental health in teenagers.

A study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that the Covid-19 pandemic was associated with increased social isolation and loneliness in adolescents. Another study published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry found that the pandemic was associated with increased levels of anxiety and depression in teenagers.

How Addison Vogt decided to help

Even though Addie describes herself as an introvert who does not like large social gatherings, during the pandemic, she still found herself longing for the relationships she had started to build in her freshman year. 

This realization prompted her to start a two-year journey researching the long-term effects of isolation, especially on teenagers. Not only did she conduct meaningful discussions with her peers on how they experienced the isolation, but she also spoke to teen psychology experts, including Dr. Lisa Damour, as well as guidance counselors.

She discovered the importance of socialization in teenagers’ health and development. So, she decided to start conversations between teenagers, as well as their parents. But how? She knew she wanted to encourage these discussions in a fun and constructive manner. 

So, she looked back at her childhood and how much she adored a game she used to play around the dinner table. The game required conversation, including asking questions, listening, and then asking follow-up questions, which enabled real connection among her family and friends that played. 

This memory, tied with her love of games, inspired her to develop conversation starters within a regular 52-card deck, which teenagers could play with while getting to know one another. The same applies to parents who want to encourage open communication with their children. 

How The Conversation Game Works

The Conversation Games are composed of three desks of conversation starter cards: the Converse Deck to start general conversation, the TTYL (Talk To You Later) deck to help teenagers overcome anxiety regarding texting, and the Would You/What’s Your deck to have a good time with both old and new friends with questions formulated to inspire in-depth conversations. 

“I want teens to have conversations which really mean something – conversations which allow them to connect, rather than merely having superficial small talk. These discussions give you insight into another person so that the relationship you build is based on understanding the other’s likes, their dreams, and what makes them truly happy. Once that is accomplished, you’ll be able to help each other through the bad times, and celebrate together during the good times,” says Addie. 

What you can do to reduce the impact of social isolation

It’s important for students, parents, and teachers to be aware of the potential consequences of social isolation on teenagers and to take steps to mitigate these impacts. Some strategies include providing support and guidance for students who may be struggling with social anxiety or shyness in a virtual setting, seeking help from a mental health professional if a student is experiencing severe or persistent social isolation or other mental health concerns, and keeping lines of communication open with students and encouraging them to reach out for support if they are feeling isolated or struggling. 

Support Addie’s Kickstarter campaign to get teens talking, building relationships, and working towards alleviating the negative effects of social isolation.