By Cara Murez
FRIDAY, Jan. 29, 2021 (HealthDay News) – A research team studying the live broadcasts of high school diplomas from last July found that most high school students were willing to wear masks.
Students just need more education on how to wear them correctly, as well as information on the importance of being consistent, the researchers said.
“The key to preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus lies in scientifically substantiated best practices and public buy-in to engage in these security protocols,” said Anna Mueller, study author, associate professor of sociology at Indiana University.
“As schools seek to ensure student safety, youth participation in these protocols is vital. And the good news is that teens seem to want, ”she said in a college press release.
The team studied the wearing of masks by students during five high school graduates in person and broadcast live in a public school district in early July. This gave them insight into the mask-wearing and social distancing behavior of more than 1,100 students.
Researchers documented these behaviors as students walked through graduation and posed for photos with their school principal.
The district provided students with free masks bearing the school logo. They sat the students in socially distant chairs and held each ceremony outside with safety protocols approved by the public health department. The community where the school district is located had low rates of community mask wear. He also did not have a local or state mask mandate.
The study found that nearly 70% of students wore their masks correctly upon graduation, while 10% did not wear a mask and 20% wore masks that kept slipping off.
Wearing the mask varied considerably from school to school during ceremonies, the researchers said. All schools have struggled with social distancing, except when students were in their socially distant chairs.
“We found evidence that adults can influence the behavior of young people wearing masks,” said Sarah Diefendorf, study co-author, a sociologist at the University of Utah. “This was especially evident in the graduation photos. When the teens approached their principal for their photo, all of the students except one took off their masks after an adult suggested they do so. Most of these students [80%] wore their mask correctly a few seconds before. “
Staff behavior mattered. Students were more adherent to the school’s COVID-19 guidelines in schools with adults consistently wearing their own masks or encouraging students to keep their masks on.
In all five schools, students have expressed concern for their communities amid the pandemic. Schools that displayed higher rates of mask wearing also spoke of broader social justice issues, including the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests.
“Students clearly care about the health and well-being of their peers and their community at large, which suggests that they can be important allies in keeping schools open and as safe as possible given our situation, ”Mueller said. “But young people also learn from adults, at school and outside. It is therefore essential that we make sure that parents, teachers and other adults in the community understand that masks and social distancing are essential in restoring normal life and keeping schools open. “
The study was published January 24 online in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
The World Health Organization offers a report on the transmission of COVID-19 in schools.
SOURCE: Indiana University, press release, January 25, 2021