Young people: the impact of social distancing on social learning

Many people, in many situations and in many, perhaps all, parts of the world, will suffer financially, physically and mentally due to the spread of Covid-19, and perhaps particularly due to the lockdown actions we will have to take to get it under control. 

The focus, quite rightly in these first weeks, has been on preventing an intolerable strain on our health services so that we can save the lives of those who are more vulnerable. At the same time, we must remember the impact on the younger members of our society, including those who are seeing a significant disruption to their educational careers; and, inevitably, on the transition they were due to take as they step out into the wider world and start to shape their future lives. What will be the impact of long-term social distancing, where young people can neither gather at school nor at concerts, sports stadia, restaurants or the cinema? They can’t even get together in the park.

As the great psychologist (and AGL hero) Albert Bandura explored through the development of his social learning theory, we learn from being with others, from watching their behaviour, from seeing what that behaviour leads to. This is how we build our ‘perceived personal self-efficacy’, the term he used to describe our level of confidence in our ability to achieve certain tasks; this includes, quite simply, going out into the world and interacting with other people. When we have that confidence, we try out more things, we get involved in activities that stretch our potential, we hunt down opportunities, we experience diversity. In short, we step towards being the best version of ourselves.

This is the area we work in with all our clients, of whatever age, but it is particularly fulfilling with younger people. We look at their ability to speak authentically with confidence, we help them think about purpose and direction, and we help them prepare for specific opportunitities ranging from job interviews to the first time they will meet a new group of people and need to build a network.

During these times of lockdown and social distancing, let’s all find ways to encourage the young to continue planning their futures and to practise articulating what they care about and why, sharing the stories that most bring these things to light. Over the coming weeks we will share some tips and techniques they may find useful, but for now please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you would like to discuss.