Face masks are a safe and effective way to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Learn tips for talking to your teen about masks.
With increasing COVID-19 cases across the country, face masks are still a part of our everyday lives. Wearing one is a simple and effective way to reduce the spread of the virus and keep our communities healthy.
But as pandemic fatigue sets in, children and adults alike may grow tired of taking precautions such as wearing masks. For teens facing peer pressure and increasing independence, it can be challenging to follow mask recommendations.
If you're wondering the best ways to discuss the importance of wearing a mask with your teen, check out the advice below from Jenny Francis, M.D., MPH, a pediatrician with the Adolescent and Young Adult Clinic at Children's Health℠ and Associate Professor at UT Southwestern.
When should teens wear a face mask?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that anyone age 2 and older who is not fully vaccinated wear a face mask in public indoor places. With the recent uptick in cases, the CDC also recommends that vaccinated individuals wear a mask in public indoor places when in areas of substantial or high COVID-19 spread (you can use this CDC map to check cases in your area). Wearing a mask inside in public can help maximize protection against the highly contagious Delta variant.
Additionally, given the increase in COVID-19 cases, the CDC recommends that all students wear a face mask while in school regardless of vaccination status.
Generally, your teen doesn't have to wear a face mask outdoors. However, people should consider wearing a face mask in crowded outdoor spaces if they are in an area with high COVID-19 cases.
How to encourage teens to wear a mask
Before diving into the face mask topic with your teen, try to remember where they're coming from and what it was like when you were their age. Even before the pandemic, teens faced enormous pressure from friends, school and parents. Now, mask-wearing and social distancing have piled on top of these pressures and created more social challenges.
"Talking to a teen about wearing a mask is different than talking to a child about wearing a mask. You need to be more prepared for if they say ‘no' and don't want to wear it," Dr. Francis says. "It's more about conflict resolution and knowing how to motivate them to see the importance of masking."
It's also important to keep in mind that all teenagers are different. Some may take comfort in a mask's protection; others may struggle with what feels like a restriction. Remember that teens are at a stage in brain development where they're more likely to take risks and be impulsive. Coaching them through difficult scenarios and giving them support can help prepare them to make healthy decisions.