Home Healthy Eating What Students Are Saying About Healthy Diets, Wild Weather and the Consequences of Social Media – The New York Times

What Students Are Saying About Healthy Diets, Wild Weather and the Consequences of Social Media – The New York Times

61 min read


Teenage comments in response to our recent writing prompts, and an invitation to join the ongoing conversation.

Welcome to another roundup of student comments on our writing prompts. This week we asked teenagers if schools should be able to discipline students for their social media posts, if they have a healthy diet and to share their experiences with extreme weather.

Thank you to all those who joined the conversation from around the world, including teenagers from Mountain View, Calif., Hockessin, Del., and Palestine.

Please note: Student comments have been lightly edited for length, but otherwise appear as they were originally submitted.


 Next month, the Supreme Court will consider whether to hear the case of Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L., involving a student’s freedom of speech while off school grounds.
Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times

The article “A Cheerleader’s Vulgar Message Prompts a First Amendment Showdown” details a case that is headed for the Supreme Court involving a ninth-grade student at a public high school in Pennsylvania who was suspended from her cheerleading squad after she posted a vulgar video criticizing the school.

We invited students to share their thoughts on the right to freedom of speech on and off school grounds. We were impressed by the nuanced conversation that took place and the lessons about online behavior that students took away from this story.

At first glance, it appears that schools having the right to punish students for what they post online is the perfect way to combat cyberbullying. It takes care of the issue at hand and ensures that the student will not slip up online again. However, granting schools the right to even view what students post on social media is a complete violation of their privacy. Platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat allow whatever the user posts to be seen by the entire world, but the school has no right to dictate what can and cannot be said on the internet.

Henry King, Glen Ellyn, IL

The school’s decision to punish the cheerleader for her frustration on social media was unconstitutional … She was not causing chaos or disrupting the teamlike environment on her personal social media like the school claimed as their reasons for punishing her. Students still have their Freedom of Speech at school as well as anywhere else. The school would also be violating her constitutional right if she had done the same thing at school. Schools should not punish students for what they say outside of school, at school, or on social media. Schools are supposed to be safe places for students to learn, not be places where students are in fear of losing their rights.

Asa Chism, Bryant High School, Arkansas

I think that schools should have the ability to punish students for using racist terms and making threats. I also strongly believe that they should be able to intervene with things like online bullying because those things would be punished if the student was on the grounds. In the case of the girl in the article I think that was too far she didn’t make a threat to anyone and although it is rude it shouldn’t have led to a suspension. I think the school’s reasoning for it is way over exaggerated she was upset in the moment and they should have been more understanding of it.

Katie W, Cary

The ninth grader was just trying to express her feelings towards a school situation to her friends. To my knowledge she was not trying to bring down an event or a school activity by using the language and expressing her thoughts … Students have lives outside of school to do what they want and make their own decisions in life and they should not be disciplined for something that didn’t happen on school grounds. I feel like the only case that a student should be disciplined from something outside of school is when it is an attempt to bring the school down or prevent it from doing something. When it is an act of expression and to tell people what your opinion was, I do not think they should be able to punish you.

Owen Byington, Utah

My reaction to the story of BL was that she was irresponsible for sending that Snapchat. High school athletes, especially “spirit squads” such as cheer or poms, are expected to have good sportsmanship and represent their schools and are therefore expected to reflect that outside of school. From my experience, my coaches expect me to represent my team and my school through my actions outside of school and those who fail to do so, have consequences similar to this cheerleader. I agree with the justification because having a “teamlike environment” with respect for everyone is important. Everyone has been on a team where they don’t like someone or some aspect of the team, but starting drama is the last thing that would help.

LG, Northwest HS

I believe that you are allowed to post what you like on social media, but that doesn’t mean you are invincible to punishments that follow poor decisions or bad language online. If you are tarnishing the good name of an extracurricular on social media, you deserve to be punished by said extra curricular. If you threaten to harm something (ex. school) or someone, you deserve to face the consequences that come with that. The internet is a place to express yourself, but it is not a punishment free speaking platform.

Sierra, Rio Americano High School

I think that B.L. should have been suspended from the cheerleading team and thus, agree with the school’s justification. If I were part of the school administration, I would have banned her from social media for a month in addition to suspending her from the cheerleading team. … In the 1969 Tinker vs. Des Moines case, the Supreme Court allows students to wear black armbands to signify discontent with the Vietnam War. However, they said that disruptive speech would not be tolerated. I believe that this student was being somewhat disruptive. Therefore, she must be punished.

Anuradha, Hockessin, DE

I do think that schools should be able to punish kids if they post inappropriate things on social media even if it isn’t on school grounds. I think this because the girl is posting about the school in this case, so the school is automatically drawn into this which I think gives the school a reason to punish her … Now if the girl didn’t post anything that related to the school but said some inappropriate words then the school shouldn’t be able to punish her, but because she did mention the school and brought them in now they have a reason.

Brooke, Harrisburg PA

If the school would like to report these posts to parents or guardians, that would be acceptable and the student would likely be chastised by the parents, but it is not the place of school administrators to get involved in matters like this. In the adult world, if somebody posts something disrespectful about somebody they know, it would be considered rude, but that would be the end of it. Nobody would report them to the police for a hurtful comment, as sharing their opinion is a First Amendment right. Similarly, if a student makes a disrespectful comment online about a teacher, they should not be punished by the school as it is their First Amendment right to share their opinion. There are many exceptions to this, such as threats, or other specific cases, but in general, it is not the school’s place to get involved in what is posted online by students.

Ainsley, Hoggard in Wilmington, NC

Schools should not be able to punish students for what they post on social media. I don’t think schools should be involved in students’ social media at all … We all make mistakes, but if we are constantly being watched by people with power over us, we don’t have room to learn to be kinder on our own. It is a parent’s job to make sure that their kid is being kind to others on social media, it is not the schools’ place.

Erin Eberhardt, Hoggard Highschool, Wilmington NC

Schools shouldn’t have control of what we post, but with that being said, I also think that it wasn’t necessary to have your middle finger up, use profanity, or send it to 250 different people at 14 or 15 years old. People who post that type of stuff also need to recognize that it is wrong to do most of those things and accept responsibility for their actions … The people who should be telling her not to do these things (stick up your middle finger or use profanity) are her parents or guardians. At no point should the school be involved because it does not pertain to them.

Emily, Pennsylvania

There are other ways for students to face consequences when posting inappropriate things online than having to face expulsion or getting suspended. Sometimes it can just be a learning situation students have in order to better understand what is right and wrong to post. I believe that schools should take action by informing students what is “right or wrong” to post on social media, rather than always residing to extreme punishment.

Caroline Turner, Glenbard West High School

I think as students in high school, we should be aware as to how we should be handling our social media platforms. There comes a certain responsibility to owning a social media account and how your image is reflected onto others. Most people keep their social media clean, with positive, fun content, such as with their friends, on vacation, etc. those that choose to post things that could be offensive to their followers or to anyone viewing their account deserve to be punished.

Will Mc, Glenbard West, Glen Ellyn, Illinois


Getty Images

In her recent report on teenagers and nutrition in the pandemic era, Christina Caron shares a 2017 survey of high school students which found that only 7 percent met the daily recommendations for fruit, and just 2 percent met the recommendations for vegetables.

We asked students about their own diets and whether the pandemic has made it harder for them to eat right. Many shared how staying at home has made it all too convenient to turn to food for comfort or entertainment, while others found that increased opportunities for self-care made this the perfect time to get healthy.

Overall, the pandemic has really taken a toll on the habits that I have developed over time. Eating right is a lot harder when I can use the excuse of “we are in a global pandemic” to have that bag of chips, or avoid eating carrots with my chicken. I almost completely agree with the author in the sense that, the pandemic this year has messed things up on a scale that I never could imagine would happen. Healthy foods are generally more expensive, and with the economic uncertainty that is this past year, many people probably choose to eat cheaper as opposed to healthier.

Tim Gambla, Hinsdale Central High School, IL

When you can’t find comfort in much else, at least you can still find it in food. This was my motto throughout the pandemic. I can confidently say that I do not fall into the mere 2% that are meeting the CDC daily recommendations for vegetables. Although I try to incorporate healthier foods into my diet frequently, my diet is nowhere near as healthy as it was before the pandemic. Fat, salt, and sugar have become things that I crave more often than I did before the big shutdown.

Not only has the pandemic changed my cravings, but it has also greatly changed the accessibility to healthy foods. In March, my family was not making frequent trips to the grocery store so our meals became reliant on frozen foods and carbs on the shelves …

Kylee F., Farmington High School

Something that I find really interesting in this article is the importance of “comfort foods,” and especially how it contributes to weight gain for a lot of teenagers … Throughout quarantine, my diet has worsened a lot, and I feel that this is in part because of “comfort foods.” As with many other people, my mental health has most likely worsened as well throughout 2020 and 2021, and I oftentimes find myself using food to cope with it. As this most likely relates to many other people, I just want to point out that no one should be ashamed about what they are eating, especially during a time like this. This article points out many of the consequences of eating unhealthy foods and having unhealthy eating habits, like weight gain and anxiety. Although I feel that, as a whole, eating healthier foods leads to a healthier mind and body (obviously), people shouldn’t feel guilty about eating foods that make them happy. As long as you are keeping an eye on your diet and eating habits, it’s okay to treat yourself every now and then.

Shi, Hinsdale

I’m not sure if I’ve ever really had a healthy diet. I think the pandemic has just shined light more so on that fact. Without the usual two hours of practice, school, or a normal social life I think myself and many other students have turned to food as a sort of entertainment which is not good, to say the least, and the most entertaining food to eat isn’t the week-old kale in the back of the fridge. Processed food just keeps getting better and harder to avoid, especially now when we are basically locked inside our homes with them. The worst being that I know they are bad for me but -wow- they are hard to turn down for a carrot.

Kate Shaw, Glenbard West

COVID-19 has done so much damage on my eating habits. Before the pandemic, I used to play sports year-round and have a healthy, balanced diet. That has all changed. Due to everything being shut down for indoor dining in my area, I feel the need to grab fast food when I’m hungry. I’m not the only one either. I know the pandemic has “altered many’s eating habits” and even their weight. Honestly, although some might say otherwise, I don’t believe I, nor anybody else, should blame food choice on COVID-19. Yes, a lot of restaurants are shut down. However, that leads to new opportunities to learn to cook healthy options — if you don’t know how — or simply put together a salad. Thus, I believe we need to put in perspective that we can still manage to maintain a healthy diet with the pandemic.

Emma Halas, Glenbard West High School

I think compared to most teenagers I have a decent diet … My main problem is self control. I’ll eat health foods, but I snack all throughout the day and tend to eat bigger portion sizes then I should. I agree that comfort foods have become “especially alluring.” I’ve been eating a lot starchy foods to keep myself occupied. I’m trying to start eating healthier since softball season is about to start. One of the biggest things that keeps me from eating healthy is the option of eating unhealthy. It’s hard for me to choose an apple over a snack cake. I would say that I agree it’s smart to keep them in the house. Like Dr. Muth, my mom will cut up some fruit and leave it in the fridge for us. I always eat it because it’s convent, but I wouldn’t if it wasn’t already ready for me.

Dabney, Cary

I’ve always had a healthy diet. My dad is super into fitness and has guided me towards a healthy lifestyle since I was very young. And once the pandemic hit, I was actually eating even healthier than I was before. Sounds crazy right? Let me explain why.

Especially for teens, I feel that it is very hard to eat healthy. When we are with friends, it’s never “let’s go get a salad” or “maybe we should cut back on our calories.” It’s always what fast food place sounds the best right now; and that place is usually Chick-fil-A. But, as the pandemic rolled around, I wasn’t able to see my friends hardly at all. Meaning I had more control over every meal I had. With a combination of my dad’s teaching and a strong desire to get shredded for the summer, I ate one of the healthiest diets imaginable.

Most people can agree that they want to eat healthy and get in shape. Well, now is the time to do so. You have so much control over what you eat right now and what you do during the day. With school being only a few hours long and sports being cancelled, now is the time to eat healthy and focus on getting in shape.

Jack, Desmond

At the start of quarantine everything was closed. Because gyms and other places to work out were closed, it was my responsibility to get myself moving each day. If you don’t know, exercise creates “happy chemicals” in your brain, causing your mood (and health) to improve. When I wasn’t working out as consistently, there was a steep decline in my mental health. I was just kind of sad all of the time and I felt drained. And so, I reached for food as a way to help me “cope.” It was nothing too extreme, I didn’t have an eating disorder or anything, but that was my way of coping with what was going on. That cycle of not feeling great, then reaching for food, and then feeling worse, continued for a few weeks.

I was probably at an all-time low and I wasn’t feeling great about myself. I began to start running to get myself into shape, and started cooking more often. My family assigned my siblings and I one night to cook dinner for the family, and I thought that was fun and almost therapeutic. And so, I got really into cooking for myself and in turn, started eating healthier. I try to pay attention to the foods I eat, but I never obsess about it, because I know that can lead to toxic cycles and patterns. I try to fit in fruits and veggies when I can, but I don’t always get my “five a day” in.

Keener, Hoggard HS Wilmington, NC

Your diet is essential for many aspects of your life whether you realize it or not. And though Covid-19 has made it more difficult for many to have access to fresh produce and healthy food options it shouldn’t be an excuse to not be educated how to eat properly and make good food decisions. In fact, Covid-19 was one of the reasons I chose to become vegetarian. I wanted to have more control over my diet and cook at home more. This provided the me with the opportunity, through trial and error to see how my diet affected my body and mind. I was astonished to find that by eating more fruits and vegetables I had more energy and I actually began to enjoy learning new recipes and cooking for myself. It also made me realize just how much I’d been depriving myself of a very important part of any diet, fiber. And this is why I believe that it’s essential for people to think more deeply about what they chose to put into their body, because you only have one.

Jason J., Glenbard West HS Glen Ellyn, IL

This year my taste has changed in food, meaning my diet looks completely different from last year. I have cut all soda from my diet and replaced it with water. I have been eating healthier foods like salads, turkey, and chicken. The most important part to me about having not only a clean input of food but a good consistent exercise routine, without working out eating healthy has little impact.

Badr Abusalah, Palestine

As an athlete, I try to maintain a healthy diet and to be cognizant of what I eat and drink. While I certainly eat fruits, vegetables, and healthy grains, I also enjoy dessert, pancakes, and more — everything in moderation! However, I do think that it is important to note the harm of perpetuating diet culture, especially in teens. Eating disorders are widespread and incredibly common, and putting too much emphasis on food itself can lead to unhealthy practices. Rather than focusing on eating healthy to look a certain way, we should promote the concept of eating healthy for just that: health. To make sure that teenagers are eating according to Ms. Caron’s recommendations, we should recommend tasty ways to eat fruits and vegetables (for instance, a healthy smoothie) and promote healthy eating to feel better, perform better in sports, and be one’s best self, rather than for physical appearance.

Sarah Faz, Mountain View, CA

Before responding to the text, I believe it is critical to note that a healthy diet does not consist of all fruits and vegetables; in contrast, a healthy diet stems from a balance of energy dense foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, and less energy-dense foods, such as potato chips and cereal. Yet, there are a multitude of barriers that restrain certain households from maintaining this balance, especially the lower socioeconomic status, SES, population. For families with lower incomes, buying fresh food may not be a priority or even possibility when taking into account other financial responsibilities such as rent or utilities. John Crawley, an economics professor at Cornell University, further points out the price of energy-dense foods has risen 74.6 percent while the cost of less energy-dense foods, fats and oils, has decreased 26.5 percent in a span of only fifteen years. Thus, when the economic strife of the pandemic is factored in, adolescents having healthier eating habits may not be a conversation of a challenging choice to eat healthy but of a forced one to not.

Julia Oledzka, Glenbard West High School


Brittainy Newman for The New York Times

Earlier this week, the East coast of the United States was hit with frigid temperatures and a powerful winter storm. In our Picture Prompt “Wild Weather,” we invited teenagers to tell us about their experiences with memorable weather events.

Their stories ranged from joyous — many students reminisced about happy snow day memories — to harrowing — several others wrote about their emotional experiences of Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Florence.

Living on the coast of North Carolina the majority of my life meant that I did not see snow often. In New York, they got snow every winter and I was always so jealous. Finally, I was able to visit one year when it was snowing. We went to golf courses every day and went sledding down the big hills. After a long day of sledding, we would go back to my grandmother’s house and drink hot chocolate. One of the days that we were there me and my brothers made an igloo. We spent hours on it and it turned out great. Just the snow falling on my eyelashes brought pure joy to me. I loved the snow. I will always remember that trip and how such a simple thing as snow can make me so happy.

Emily Failla (3rd Block), Hoggard High School

I have always enjoyed winter and especially the snow. Games in the snow such as snow football and building forts will always be a special part of my childhood. I still reminisce about one blizzard, in 2011, when we got over two feet of snow. I remember taking the day off of school, which afforded my brothers and I the opportunity to build a giant snow fort, do dives from off of the porch into the snow, and dig tunnels around the yard. And despite its controversial nature, my favorite part of that day and all other snow storms has to be eating the snow.

Luke, Glenbard West HS Glen Ellyn, IL

The most memorable weather event that I have experienced was a blizzard where it snowed around 3 feet. When I woke up to my parents telling me we had a snow day I was ecstatic. I couldn’t wait to put on all my gear and play in the snow but when I went to the back door to go outside, the whole door was blocked by snow. My dad shoveled and snow blowed for hours and hours to clear our driveway and walkways and finally I could go outside to play. As I played in the snow in the backyard with my neighbor, our dads had secretly making a ginormous snowman in the front yard to surprise us with. They even had to use a ladder to create the head. Although I’ve never been a huge fan of the cold that day was one of the most fun snow days I’ve ever experienced.

Ella Cesario, Glenbard West high School

My favorite weather memory was back in January of 2016. We heard about this huge snow storm coming to Maryland but nobody knew it would be that big. Over a two day period it ended up having 26 inches of snow. We were out of school for almost two weeks. Being a 7th grader I felt like that was the best thing ever. Other than shoveling snow multiple times, I enjoyed everything about the break. I played tons of video games with friends and I could forget about upcoming assignments. That was a blessing from God himself. The only bad part was our school year was two weeks longer than it was supposed to be

Joshua Doakes, Bishop McNamara High School

The most memorable weather event I have experienced was Hurricane Sandy. This particular hurricane happened to hit Wilmington on the day of one of my close family friends’ wedding. I was around seven years old, but I remember the chaos of her wedding day. My sisters were bridesmaids and I was the flower girl in the wedding. On the day of the wedding, I was in a building behind the church to wait with the bride-to-be before the ceremony began. When we opened the doors to leave the building, the wind was howling and the rain was beginning to pour. Pictures show us running into the building with multiple umbrellas trying to protect us from the storm.

Sarah Meisel (Block 3), Hoggard High School in Wilmington, NC

My most memorable weather event was definitely Hurricane Sandy. I remember sitting in my fourth grade classroom listening to chatter about how there was a huge hurricane in New Jersey, and all I could think about was how I was leaving to go there the next day! Hurricane Sandy happened to come through the same time as my cousin’s wedding, which of course was planned to be in New Jersey. After landing in the Newark airport, we were picked up by our relatives and driven to my cousin’s house. I was astonished to see the crazy amount of traffic and the endless lines to get gas! When arriving at my cousin’s house, we were welcomed by a house full of guests, all under stress, working to keep everyone safe and seek a new venue for the wedding, as the original venue had a power outage. We were able to take this inconvenience as a way to bond with one another, and were blessed to find a new venue for my cousin to get married at. Though it may not be the wedding they expected, it sure makes a great story.

Roshan Bhagwakar, Glenbard West HS Glen Ellyn, IL

The most memorable weather event that I have experienced was Hurricane Florence. Living on the coast of North Carolina, I had experienced hurricanes before, but this one was different. Because of the predicted severity of the storm, my family made the decision to evacuate to Durham, NC and we stayed with some of our friends. We had News Channel on 24/7 and were basically watching our hometown get torn apart by this vicious storm. Hurricane Florence took the expression “Slow and steady wins the race,” to heart, considering that she stalled over Eastern North Carolina for a few days, dropping many inches of rain and twisting up power lines. The streets of Durham were even flooded as well, so we were forced to extend our stay. Finally, after about a week away from our home, the streets had cleared up and it was safe enough for us to drive home. I’ll never forget how suspenseful it was driving around our neighborhood and seeing the previously perfect homes, now coated with debris and torn up like an old kitchen rag. When we got to our house, the water line was evident from the outside. I could see my parents start to get worried and when we entered our home, their suspicions were confirmed. Our house had flooded with about two feet of water. Fortunately, the water had just entered during the storm and was not still waiting for us when we arrived back home. For the next couple of days we had no power, so we spent them outside picking up storm remnants and debris.

Molly Parker, Hoggard High School in Wilmington, NC

I live in the south, so hurricanes are pretty often where I live, but I will always remember Hurricane Florence. Hurricane Florence struck Wilmington on September 13-14, 2018. I remember waking up at around 8:00 a.m. and see how much wind, and rain there was. Now, Hurricane Florence was only a category 1 hurricane, which is the least powerful, but it stayed over Wilmington for about 3 days, so it was just nonstop rain and wind. I also remember the power being out for 5-6 days, and it being super hot, and humid. But I’ll always remember sitting on my front porch, watch the hurricane role through Wilmington, and playing a game with my family where we had to tell a story that happened to each of us with a certain mood (For example A story with a happy mood). I remember that game made the days go by way quicker, and I also remember the power coming back on, and that was probably the happiest I have ever been.

Elijah Ball, Hoggard High School

My most memorable weather event I experienced was hurricane Florence. My family had to evacuate because we live on the coast of North Carolina. It was so scary because we didn’t know how bad it would be and if we would even have a home to return to. We went to our family’s house in Georgia and stayed with them for two weeks. I was fortunate enough that the worst thing we had to deal with was picking up all the leaves and sticks on the ground and having a tree fall in our yard. I know some people weren’t as lucky as we were. I have a friend who had several trees fall on her roof, and there was a giant hole in her bedroom ceiling. I know another girl that had the whole side of her house ripped off from the wind. I remember driving through my town when we got home and feeling so stunned that a hurricane had done this much. Another thing I remember is volunteering to serve meals downtown with my family. There were big apartment buildings filled with people that couldn’t safely drive to go get food, so they were living off of pantry items. They didn’t have any power, so it was hot all the time. Going through that made me realize how fortunate I was and what is really important in life.

Keener, Hoggard HS Wilmington, NC

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