Hoofprints » Teen Interest

Teen Interest

Featured in "Teen Interest" will be stories by teens, for teens.
silhouttes of teenagers

After what felt like an eternity of irritating red lights stopping my every plan in life: A green beacon of light showed itselfConcerts were officially back in full swing, and I hastily clicked on a new tab on the school laptop to purchase tickets. Who needed to watch an Edpuzzle when there were tickets on the line? With 95 dollars out of my bank account and two tickets to see Willow Smith in concert, the anticipation, and Instagram’s countdown feature for the date counting down the minutes, was officially in gear. Concert season was in the air, and I wanted to take full advantage of it 

Despite the lack of seeing people live in stadiums in the year 2020, My last concert experience was quite different from the one I’ve recently had. Back in November of 2019, little sophomore me got a ride to the Fillmore in Philadelphia to see none other than Conan Gray. Slightly mainstream, but still good music. (Go check him out! He has a single release on October 25th). Yet again- this was back in 2019, not in 2021. 

Going to the concert in 2019, life was easy. No pieces of fabric that made up a mask being worn at all and Covid was merely a topic that was thrown around like a paper-ball and tossed in the trash with the response of “it’ll never happen to meThe merch tables were scattered around with fans crushing others just to get a simple t-shirt. There was no need to present a negative test 72 hours before the date of the show or the fact that you had two doses of a shot- you only needed to present the barcode for the ticket. Nothing about going to a concert was stressful for me- the explanation as to why my assignment was submitted a little later than 11:59 might’ve been, though. 

woman singing on stage

Time-traveling to the year 2021, I never would’ve expected that a place like the Theatre of The Living Arts need to stamp an ‘approved’ on my right wrist for me to even enter the venue. Getting to the arena itself, if you didn’t get your shots, was a haste. You needed to print out a negative Covid test at least three days before. Ignoring that information, as I was fully vaccinated, it still dampened my concert mood in a way. I didn’t want to focus on if I could even go, I just wanted to go. With masks above-the-nose and a piece of card-stock screaming out “I’m vaccinated!” to anyone who needed to validate my appearance at the venuethe concert experience I was hoping for slightly plummeted to the gutters of PhiladelphiaEven getting something simple like merchandise to support the artist was a slight change- they allowed credit cards to be used when it used to be strictly cash and enforced social distancing in the lines. 

But, despite the immense differences between going and getting to the two venues, the same serotonin rush you experienced when the artist came out on stage for the first time that night did not change. During both my concert in 2021 and in 2019, fans immediately screaming when it hit 9:30 didn’t change a single bitWhen the lights dim and the opening few notes of the song I've been counting down to hear play in my ears- it almost feels every problem in the world drowns out for a while 

The quality of the performances didn’t budge a bit either. Both performers gave it there all on stage as they had a career to uphold as well as fans who relied on them. The songs stayed the same, the energy the crowd roared back at the artists also stayed: the only difference being the masks and the way you get in the venue. 

That experience in itself- no matter how many pandemics life throws at the world in retaliation to not wearing a mask properly- will never change 


Photo Credit: Natalie Brady

It’s no secret that exercise is good for the body; that’s kind of the point. But how does it effect the mind? Endorphins, also known as “the feel-good hormones, are released while exercising. It’s been proven to help battle depression, as well as anxiety and even PTSD by restraining your natural fight-or-flight response. I could go on and on about how it makes you feel good or helps you remember things better. But the most intriguing dynamic is between exercise and teenagers.  

In recent years, voluntary exercise, specifically weightlifting, has become very popular in the high school age group. Kids will get gym memberships or use a home gym much more often than in the past. I personally go to the gym every day, mostly because I’ve enjoyed gaining muscle over time. But other students and close friends of mine have reasons of their own. I conducted a few interviews at the gym one day to see what some gym goers had to say.  

“Last November there was nothing to do during Covid.” says Mainland Senior Matt Giannantonio. “I decided to get a membership at Retro Fitness. It was either that or play video games all weight lifterday.” While some look towards the gym as a product of boredom, others look to it as an outlet. Other senior Fisher Tilson goes on to talk about insecurities and how he felt was the best way to improve them: “I started [Lifting weights] because I didn’t feel good in my body. After about a year of consistency, I’ve become more confident, both in and out the gym.” “I started working out because I needed an outlet.” Senior cheerleader Leila Smith says. “I had been in a rough patch, and I began going to the gym with a friend. As I kept going, I found a noticeable change in my mood.” 

The common theme that keeps popping up is the change in how these students feel. Before consistently going to the gym, they had certain insecurities about what they thought about themselves or how they thought they looked. After a certain amount of time, those insecurities started to fade. “I’ve felt so much happier and less stressed in school. I’ve even been sleeping better than before.” says Leila. Matt also recognizes consistently lifting as the reason for his boost in overall discipline.  

This is because exercise has a direct effect on the chemicals in your brain that lead to depression. Dr. James Blumenthal of Duke University states, “There’s good epidemiological data to suggest that active people are less depressed than inactive people.” If you apply the same logic to highly stressed, anxious, and insecure teenagers, it makes sense as to why the students interviewed feel a great difference in their overall wellbeing.  

Lifting weights and going to the gym is the latest fad in the high school age group. It’s becoming easy for people to forget why they really need to go to the gym or exercise at all. Instead of focusing on how many likes you can get on your gym Tiktok, focusing on your physical and mental health will always be more important. 



The Science Behind How Exercise Improves Your Mental Health - FitRated.com 

The exercise effect (apa.org) 

We all hear the same saying when we turn thirteen, “Watch out mom and dad it’s the teen years” or even “These next couple years are about to be the terrible twos all over again!” But are “teen years” hard on the adults or the children? 

Today adolescent depression is on the rise. For example, the National Institute of Mental Health reports that about 3.2 million 12–17-year old’s have had at least one major depression episode within the last past 12 months.  More and more of teens are falling into depression everyday and adults just want to call it the normal “teen years”, but it sounds like the depression is falling more on the teens than the parents.  

The main cause of teen depression is stress that leads to other ways for depression to acureFor instance, the transition to high schooler, friends, peer pressure, school, sports, parents, abuse, relationships, and so much more. Teen depression isn’t something that can be put aside because it can have serious consequences and requires long-term treatment.  

Depression puts teenagers into a deep, dark hole that throws off their wellbeing. Depression affects how teens think, feels, and behave, and it can cause emotional, functional, and physical problems. Although depression can occur at any time in life, symptoms occur mainly at a young age.   

Although it seems a lot, teen depression can be stopped by parents just simply listening to the kids and their feelings, needs, and wants. Some examples that parents can do to help teens get past early depression are: 

  • Always asking questions on why they feel how they do, and what’s bothering them 
  • Be ready to listen, so that you’re ready for when your child opens up to you because if you’re to busy doing other things they’ll often think that you aren’t ready to talk.  
  • Help with support. They might be more willing to consider therapy when other trusted adults encourage them to reach out.  
  • And lastly make changes as a family. Lifestyle changes can have a lot of benefit for depression symptoms. 


Depression can put a toll on teens behavior and mental health, so at first, they might resist the help, but the families who stick with the process, who help their teens through the rough times, and let them talk are the families that overcome or even pass the depression.   


Over the years of adolescent depression can lead to much higher risk of poor performance at school, of using drugs and alcohol, and of becoming the habit of laziness. Although with the help of friends, family, communities, counselors, and school’s teens can bypass these risks 


Communities and schools over the years have realized how important childhood depression is and how stopping it earlier can help in the future by developing different type of counseling, places to call, people to talk to, and ways to help families through the processes. For example, at Belhaven Middle School in Linwood, the school has just made a room this year where students can go to a specific room during class if they’re stressed. The room has relaxing lights, chairs, silence, and stress relieving toys. By adding rooms like this to school, it allows students to relieve their stress from a student or teacher before making harmful decisions.  


The next time you bring up the hardships of “teen years” to parents take a second to reflect on your kid, and if their showing early signs of stress or poor wellbeing from depression.    



If you’re going through depression alone, or you don’t know how to talk to your family about it, PLEASE reach out to your local school counselors today. If you are a Mainland Student, talk to your counselor about setting up an appointment with the Wellness Team.




Teen depression - Symptoms and causes - Mayo Clinic 

How to Help a Teen With Depression: 9 Pieces of Advice (healthline.com) 

In recent weeks and months, there has been a lot of new information coming out regarding Instagram and its effects on teenagersespecially teen girls. Many young people use Instagram, as well as other social media platforms like Snapchat and Tiktok to reach each other. While this can be a pro to using these apps, there are also detrimental “side effects.” Social media is most definitely a disease that infects the teenage brain.  

Let us dig deeper into why and how Instagram can have such a negative impact on teenage girls’ minds. Imagine you’re a 14-year-old girl and you are becoming troubled about how you look, so you follow a few diet influencers online. Instagram’s algorithm will begin to suggest similar accounts and soon your whole feed will be full of diet tips and how to “become skinny.” A few actual names of accounts that are geared towards helping young girls lose weight are, “I want to be perfect” and “I have to be thin.” This creates an extremely negative and toxic environment for young girls, pressuring them to look a certain way and reassuring them that starving themselves is the only way be who they want to be. This is the tragic reality of Instagram.  

Life has always been tough on teenage girls. Even fifty years ago, businesses and magazines teen girl hiding under sheetswere finding ways to profit from young girls’ insecuritiesSocial media platforms such as Instagram are full of images of people who have changed how they look, by using online filters or in real life, with dieting, surgery or even both. In the feed, influencers and celebrities’ photos are mixed in with photos of your friends and yourself. Now, any photo is subject to scrutiny in the form of likes and comments. 

This makes me sick. Being a teenage girl, I have experienced the effects social media can have on the brain. I currently do not use any social media platforms because it made me so unwell, and I feel happier without it. Seeing pictures of people who look exactly the way you want to but cannot figure out how to on a daily basis is harmful. Especially when it is reinforced with tips on the best way to starve yourself.  

Two young women did a survey with their peers as part of national science competition. They found that out of the 98 students that responded, 90% said that social media negatively affected their mental health and general wellbeing. While this was not a large-scale survey, the results are still disturbing. Imagine if this was done with 10,000 teens instead of nearly 100 

There is a ton of work that needs to be done to make social media a safe place for teens, and even if that work is done, I’m not sure it will be possible. There have always been and always will be things
 target and use teenagers' vulnerability and insecurities to make a profit and that is simply not right. 

UltimatelyInstagram is a cruel place for young people and their already vulnerable minds.  




Photo Credit:


Announced as a mere two week break from school, the Covid-19 pandemic, and subsequent lockdowns and shifts to virtual education, have affected the lives of many, especially those in a transitional period of their life: high school students. In March of 2020, when the students and teachers at Mainland Regional High School, and in schools across the world, sat in desks and listened over the loudspeakers to the announcement of the “Novel Coronavirus”, we grew with fear, shock, and trepidation. Just hours later, Governor Phil Murphy signed an executive order stating that effective Wednesday, March 18, all New Jersey schools will be closed.  

illustration of a computer screen


At this point in time, many still stood under the belief that this closure was only two weeks. During what most students viewed as an extension of a spring break, we saw Michael’s Arts and Crafts hauls and Tiger King binge watches, but many remained worried about the unknown of the situation. When the two-week period was up, we were introduced to words like “quarantine,” “lockdown,” and “CDC guidelines,” and kept in our homes for a boundless amount of time. We watched Rachel Levine and Dr. Fauci on our TV screens deliver more saddening news, Governor Phil Murphy lead a tutorial on how to properly wear a mask, and an icon tallying the Covid-19 death count became a permanent embellishment on many news broadcasts. For some high school students, the shift to virtual education, coupled with the fear and anxiety of the unknown, became crippling; for others, an opportunity to hone in on oneself in a period of isolation and focus on other things may have been the perfect recipe for them to find what they were looking for. 

A year and a half later, we reflect on these changes in ourselves: How have we grown? How have we changed? How are we different? For the Class of 2022, the world was ours just days before the announcement of the initial school closure. The year was wrapping up, winter was turning into spring, and summer was just moments away. End of the year tests were in sight, then at the drop of a beat we would be juniors, ready to take on the world as upperclassmen. Though, when we watched in dismay as time began to move on without us, stuck in our homes, or walking on the bike path, or baking sourdough bread and scrolling for hours on TikTok, it seemed as though life was escaping us, and with it, our plans for the future. 

Senior Charlie Milhous states, “It was a scary time, I had no idea what was going to happen. I know everyone kept saying, ‘we were in this together,’ but a lot of us, I, felt left behind.” As a sophomore in high school in March of 2020, Milhous was hoping for a crew scholarship, rowing for the Varsity 8 and preparing for the Stotesbury Cup Regatta, one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious rowing competitions. When the race was cancelled, and the opportunity for college scouts to see him row was diminished, Milhous felt as though his future as a rower was over. During quarantine, Milhous was able to reflect on what he genuinely wanted, deciding that playing a sport in college was never his dream in the first place. He was not the only one to have moments of thought and introspection like this. 

For Gracen Costello, a Mainland Regional senior, her future saw shifts as well. “[Quarantine] allowed me to realize what my hobbies were,” she declares, “and maybe what I would want to do in college and in the future.” Costello now sits in front of her computer, applying to colleges with a major she decided was best for her over the last two years. During lockdown, with an abundance of time, she constructed an art portfolio, mixed with architectural designs and paintings she hopes may help her get into college. “I think now that if I had not had so much time, I would never have completed any of the things I hoped to before high school was over,” Costello contends. Evidentially, the lockdown and virtual schooling during 2020-2021 allotted her a surplus of time to focus on herself. For some, they do not share the same reality. 

“We missed basically half of our high school experience,” Mia Derosa, Mainland Senior and 4-year cheerleader for the Mustangs, gives voice to. For Derosa, she had believed high school would be like the movies, hoping for a teen romance or comedy, not a horror film. For the Class of 2022, this reality is true. Losing the latter half of our sophomore year, to only return full-time to school for the beginning of our senior year, it seems like high school has ended before it even began. Missing out on paramount events like the junior prom or the homecoming dance, Friday night football games or field trips with your classmates; on little things, like saying hi to the peers who you only seem to see inside the walls of the school, or waving to teachers in the hallways, much of the “high school experience” has been depleted for the Class of 2022.  

It is undoubtable that the Covid-19 pandemic impacted the lives of everyone, no matter the scale of effect. For high school students, they were obliged to learn biology and calculus over a computer screen, work out through YouTube tutorials, and see friends and family on Zoom and FaceTime. For teachers, it meant not being able to enjoy their jobs to the fullest, doing their best to engage and interact with the world through text messages, emails, and technology. We have come a long way since the beginning of the pandemic, wearing masks, getting vaccines, and slowly working ourselves back into society and the trials and tribulations of life, but it appears that the future may be impacted regardless. 


Photo Credit:

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/14/education/learning/students-parents-teachers-remote-stories.html - Illustrations by Natalia Ramos 

Over the past few years, the mental health of teenager has been progressively getting worse. 81% of teenagers say the mental health of young people is a significant issue. This issue has been affecting teens grades, school life, decision making, physical health, and social life. The numbers and statistics have been only going up and has been continuing to worry adults and friends/family of those being affected by this on-going problem.  

The most common mental illnesses for teens are depression, anxiety, and eating disorders. Often, one mental illness leads to many more issues in the young people lives. 30% of the teens who suffer from depression develop substance abuse and 15% develop bipolar disorder (another mental illness). Depression along with the other illnesses affect how teenagers think, feel, and behave. These illnesses are frequently developed at home or at school and during childhood or adolescent. It’s important that schools know the warning signs of mental illnesses and continue to educate on the issue so that they can lead students to getting the help they need. The mental health of students needs to be communicated in the classroom to avoid teens issues from getting too out of hand to the point where any sort of treatment isn’t going to help. 

Teenwho experience a mental illness say that the support of there parents means everything to them. The teens feel as if even though their parents feel like they are obligated to try and help their children, the children feel like there is nothing their parents can do to help and that they must battle their illness on their own. “It is real, and it is exhausting” is how the teens describe the mental illness. They say that they wish they could be more open to there parents but that they just wouldn’t understand.   

The pandemic has taken a big tole of the issue of mental health of all ages but especially teenagers. The mental illnesses of teens have gotten worse over the span of the past two years during COVID. Teens were locked inside without being about to see the people or do the things that could have distracted them, helped them cope, or avoid a mental illness. The pandemic disrupted there interacting with peers and attending school which has left teens to experience anxiety and other mental challenges. The pandemic has also brought teens more “pressure to achieve.” Teens feel like they must try and achieve more than they should to make up for the time they lost. Even those who already had mental illnesses “pre-covid” reported more symptoms of anxiety and depression as they did before.  

Many believe the best way for teens to avoid these issues is for them to be taught and practice healthy coping skillsThey are to be taught to use nice and encouraging words when talking about yourself, to avoid procrastination to prevent stressgetting enough enough sleep, mediating, and getting fresh air. It is important to try to stay away isolating yourself from others and even exercising daily to get yourself moving. Another major way to help teenagers steer clear of mental illnesses is for them to be taught and practice good communication skills. If teens can communicate easily, they would be able to talk out their problems and ask for help when they feel it is needed. 

The number of youths that have experiences an MDE (major depressive episode) increased by 206,000 just within the past year. All in all, the mental health of teenagers has taken a turn for the worst within the past few years. There are many aspects that have been affecting this issue but there are also many solutions that can start to make a dent in the number of teens who experience mental illnesses. For the future teens they need to be taught the struggles of dealing with an issue like this and how to stay away from developing one.  



Youth Data 2021 | Mental Health America (mhanational.org) 

Mental Health Statistics 2021 - Mental Health Foundation 

Waking up in a different country is an unexplainable feeling. For a split second in the morning, your thoughts are foggy, and you forget where you are for a moment. Until it hits you, that you are not at home. This feeling of serenity and peace is one that is hard to find in many teens during the 21st century. We are often confined to our hometown and find it difficult to really get that sense of adventure. Being In the same place for a proficient amount of time can be dreadful, in my opinion. Personal growth is something that is necessary for us to become better people and travelling is one of the best ways to do this.  

         Many times, people will tell you, “You have your whole life to do that” and “wait until you get a little older.” However, what is the significance of this statement? Are we supposed to stay in our own little bubble until we feel from society that we can finally start living?  

According to researchers, about 73% of teenagers have not traveled overseas. Not only these statistics, but a recent study from the Wagner Group proved through experiment that teenagers who travel are more likely to be successful and have lasting relationships.  

The teenage years are prime for gaining fundamental skills that can help us in our life. But the harsh truth is, a lot of these fundamental skills are rarely learned in the classroom. Academically, high school is important. No doubt about that. However, the skills that we learn socially and through experience are if not equally or more important. How would we know how to interact with different people, or how to respect others and be able to be independent? These are skills that you cannot really teach through a classroom, you can only learn from experience. 

           When I was fifteen years old, all I wanted was to have as many friends as possible and have a huge sweet sixteen party. I imagined the magnificent cake, and the large party dress that I would wear during my big entrance. However, I started to become more involved with traveling and kept wanting to go somewhere else. I used all the money that I would have spent on the party, and I went to Iceland. Strange place many people said. However, it was the pinnacle moment of my high school years when I found out what I was passionate about. Being in a new place and experiencing things that I have only seen pictures of on Google was astonishing. It was an experience that I wish every teenager could have.  

As a society, we prioritize status. Who you are, where you are, what you are doing, who you are with are all posted in a second with the touch of a button. Travelling is a way to get away from this. No one knows who you are, no one knows your name, and no one knows you for who you used to be. It is a fresh territory. You are capable of just being there, existing, and experiencing things with no other distractions. This gives you a complex new perspective on life. 

Now I know that budget is in fact a reason why many people at this age choose not to travel. However, there are ways around it. Make a goal for yourself to save a certain amount of money each week leading up to your trip. Hostels, for example are a wonderful way to travel for ¾ of the cost compared to a hotel. There are free excursions that you can go on, such as local museums, parks and even just being in a pristine environment can be all the enjoyment you need.  

Teenage life can be stressful and confining. However, travelling should not have to wait until you are older, or have financial backing. There are ways to get out there and see the world. A Chinese Proverb once taught us to “Not listen to what they say, go see.” That is exactly what I encourage each one of you reading this to do. Do whatever you need to do to be able to go out and see the world. That is how we learn, how we grow, and how we find ourselves.