We’ve been hearing it everywhere, from work correspondence to every commercial: we are living through challenging, uncertain times.
What makes these times so challenging and uncertain is how difficult it is to figure out what exactly is going on and what it all means. There is a lot of information to take in about coronavirus and its larger impacts, that information changes daily, and there is a whole lot of misinformation to sift through, too.
All of this is especially hard on children and teens. They already have a harder time processing information and difficult emotions, even when they’re not scared and only partially informed.
Fortunately, there’s a lot we can do to get a handle on living through this pandemic and “infodemic” together.
First and foremost, limit children’s direct exposure to the news as much as possible. Get yourself informed and understand your own emotions and biases before talking younger people through what’s happening. Be careful to only tell them the basics, but answer their questions honestly if they want more details.
When we first hear about a current event, it’s essential to ask ourselves how it makes us feel. (It can make us feel lots of ways all at once.) And, then, we must ask ourselves why it makes us feel that way. Did we learn about it in a shocking or harsh way? Does it involve people we like or dislike? Does it involve subjects that make us uncomfortable or that we don’t understand?
Once we’re aware of our initial feelings and what’s behind them, we can start to gather more detailed information and make sure it’s up-to-date and accurate.
To evaluate a source or a claim, first consider the source as a whole. Some websites will try to dupe you with URLs like worldhealth.net, CDC.news, or NYTWatch.org. Explore the full website to see their other content. Is the source a blog or forum? Is it trying to sell you something? Has it made other claims that seem outlandish or that you already know are false?
Whenever you’re doing any kind of research, but especially when you’re trying to understand current events, consider what multiple sources are saying. If you only see something in one place, it may not be true. Additionally, a source may only be giving you one side or one part of the story. Be sure to check lots of sources and check out their sources to get a more complete picture. (Also, check the dates! And be extremely wary of alleged cures. The vast majority of these claims are not based on medical research and can even be dangerous.)
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, remember to take breaks from the news and social media to rest, relax, and help. It’s okay and, in fact, essential to log off and spend some time outside, reading or watching something funny or soothing, or talking to friends and relatives. Help your family and neighbors in whatever ways you can (while maintaining appropriate social distancing!). Keep your eye out for community groups and individuals who are working to make things a little easier and find ways to join in, too.