Carson Rhodes

Palos Verdes High's Carson Rhodes teamed up with students on the East Coast to create and promote a website for students to pledge they will maintain social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo courtesy Rhodes)

Generation Z is not paying attention.

They think the “boomer remover” doesn’t apply to the under 25 crowd, but a recent Center for Disease Control report shows up to 20 percent of people hospitalized with the novel coronavirus in the U.S. are young adults.

That is the concern of a group of motivated teens across the country who want to reach their peers in places where they tune in.

Carson Rhodes, a junior at Palos Verdes High School teamed up with Philadelphians Josh Harycki, a junior at Shipley High School and senior at Germantown Friends School, Steven Pu, an international student from Beijing, China to spread the word about the COVID-19 to students who haven’t gotten the message they are not impervious to the escalating disease.

Harycki, founder of the movement, said he saw footage of spring breakers partying on the beaches and in crowded bars and became determined to inspire his generation to practice social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He knew social media was the main communication platform for peers and contacted two of his tech savvy and civil-minded friends to help launch a website.

The result of their efforts is: www.SocialDistancingPledge.com which the teens are promoting on platforms such as Instagram, Twitter and TikTok.

“There’s no money involved,” Carson said. “We’re trying to hit the younger demographic, in particular those who don’t watch TV.”

Carson said they are asking everyone to pledge, but particularly those 25 and under to commit to stopping the coronavirus spread.

In just two days about 100 followers have signed up for the pledge to help get the word out.

When Carson’s mom overheard him talking on a video chat to the teens from the East coast, she told her son she wanted to help.

“The movement is all their own idea,” Kim Rhodes said. “All I see on TV is kids partying. I just love there are kids who absolutely are not doing that, and trying to get other kids and young adults to stop. They want their movement to spread faster than the disease.”

The team's website invites visitors to pledge to observe the social distancing rules mandated by the CDC and the World Health Organization. The pledges are tracked and graphed by geographical location on a map which is shared in real time on the site.

Kim Rhodes added the boys have included links to information they believe will compel others in their demographic to wake up to the reality that our world is now facing a pandemic.

Links shared with site visitors include a raw interview with an emergency room doctor in Northern Italy who said fighting this epidemic is "like a war.” There's also information from the WHO highlighting the fact that young people are not immune to COVID-19, as well as reports from experts who say those who smoke — including vaping marijuana, jeweling and using puff bars, as ubiquitous as drinking beer among young adults — may be a significant risk factor for severe cases of COVID-19.

The site will be updated daily to include information uniquely relevant to teens and young adults.

The boys are asking businesses and celebrities whose customers, followers and fans include tweens, teens and young adults to link to their site, pledge and urge others to pledge.

The three have also used Discord to create a real-time communication platform linked to their digital footprint so that group of youths can discuss their experiences and concerns with peers.

The team will monitor the content and will not tolerate inappropriate exchanges.

“We’re part of a group of kids who aren’t partying, now,” Carson said. “We want to bring out that this is a serious issue and teens and young adults need to pay attention.”

Want to pledge? Visit www.SocialDistancingPledge.com.

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