Updated: Aug 13, 2021
The pandemic taught us a new way to live our lives with a new expanse of innovative resources—such as Zoom. Kids are now clustered in their bedrooms and adults in their home offices. Luckily, some with a unique space for work/studies and an independent room for dining or spending time with relatives. Something I'd yet to do was reduce my kids’ workspace to a room until a wave of burnout feelings and a desire to flee my home on a one-way ticket to Patagonia came around.
In any case, because of the pandemic, I now see my son’s interactions during school hours. At the beginning of the pandemic, he used to wake up at 8:35 am and connect to his online classroom by 8:40 am. But, that has changed. He is now required to go to bed at a reasonable time, wake up in the morning, shower, and, perhaps, have breakfast in front of the computer when hungry. Because Zoom has blurred the lines of our daily routines, children and youth have become way more casual in class than initially expected.
Approximately 3 weeks ago, I began my next semester of law school, with two of my classes online. All other courses are in person as a requirement for graduation set by the Bar Association. However, if students present symptoms that could be related to COVID-19, they are strongly encouraged to attend class on Zoom. Therefore, I've had to attend class (connect, as many students say) quite a few times via Zoom and, often enough, at the same time as many of my peers. A commonality was to turn cameras off, as well as one's microphone—though the latter per the request of the instructor.
I was unable to connect without my camera as it felt somewhat awkward to turn it off. Firstly, I could not imagine how I would feel if my professors would turn their cameras off. Their voices without a mouth modulating the class would not connect to my brain. This fact only built opn my overall struggle with the crude reality that I must take classes online. In addition, I found it disrespectful to my peers to not connect my camera, especially because I often ask questions (sometimes answer the questions I am asked). To me, it is like showing up to class with a Mexican wrestler mask or eating a hot Chili soup during a professors' lecture while in person.
Arguments for privacy and people’s entitlement to such have not made the transition easier. I argued profusely with my 14-year-old son when he explained his reasoning for turning his camera off during school hours.
Surprisingly, someone had told him that the right to his privacy—alluding to the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution—and that he could attend class with his camera off. I rebutted, of course. If my son’s right to privacy is so important, why does he have an iPhone? Why does he send pictures to everyone, and why in God’s name does he have an Instagram? His response made me a bit more upset. For my son, his Instagram is a tool to see his social connections’ posts but he does not post pictures himself. "It became a trend," he explained.
It seems that it is not cool to connect the camera. My teenage son has friends whose parents do not want the camera on so that the other classmates do not spot their houses. Fine, take a picture of a white wall and make it your personal background. If not up to it, use one of the stunning backgrounds Zoom offers to protect privacy, but please put to work the good manners I insist on teaching children at home.
Now, I get it, children are born entitled nowadays and we fail to provide them with a sense of justice, fairness, and common sense. Instead, as part of my volunteering, studies, and work, I attend every Zoom with my camera on. Moreover, I do not show up to my classes in pajama pants since it is not my style. I take it seriously, sporting clean underwear, shoes, and make-up.
I wish professors and teachers would incentivize having one's camera on—perhaps with brownie points at least for those who participate in class—as I find it discouraging to hear a voice emerging from the darkness.