CAPE TOWN – Many children and teenagers across the world have access to an abundance of information on the internet and on social media. With many schools in the country closed due to the spread of the virus, it provides an opportunity for some parents to ask questions such as ‘what does this information look like to our kids?’ and ‘how are they consuming information on apps like TikTok, Instagram, or Snapchat?’
South African Digital Life Skills expert and founder of MySociaLife Dean McCoubrey says that one of the biggest problems with Coronavirus at the moment is that on social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram people have been sharing misinformation or fake news.
“The challenge with social media is that it can magnify our herd mentality. And anyone and everyone can publish information which may not be true or negative in a bid to get traction. In the middle of this are our children, who have yet to develop the ability to discern fake news from important facts, and can become overwhelmed or anxious if they are exposed to the wrong information,” he said.
McCoubrey shares 4 key tips for parents to guide and support them. :
1.Equip yourself with information from trusted resources, like UNICEF, the World Health Organisation, the US Centre for Disease Control, and the South African Department of Health.
Explain that many other sources are less reliable, and check the date of articles and authors – are they credible? Or does the headline and image look like fear-mongering ‘clickbait’?
2. Keep calm where possible, because children pick up on their parents’ emotions and are more likely to panic if their parents are doing so.
Ask your children what they’ve heard about Covid-19, and answer as many of their questions in age-appropriate ways as you can.If you don’t know the answer to a question, use the opportunity to research it on trusted resources together.
3. Co-create a plan of action – it helps them feel like they’re in control.
Teach them the steps that they can take to protect themselves and others, including washing hands frequently with soap or an alcohol-based hand-rub, covering their mouth when sneezing or coughing, or doing so into the elbow, avoiding sick people, and alerting adults if they feel sick so that medical attention can be sought.
4. Keep the conversation going – Covid-19 is here for a while, so consistency is essential.
Challenges provide opportunities to educate so do some online research on resources that you’ve identified as trustworthy, and discuss developments regularly and openly.
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