And how can parents guide and support them? SA’s Digital Life Skills experts offer 7 key tips for parents.
As Covid-19 has exploded from a distant reality in South Africa to a global pandemic, with increasing local cases of the virus, we can count ourselves lucky to have almost instant access to information, education and updates on the status of disease. However, the sheer volume of information – fact based or hysteria-driven – can be overwhelming, even for adults. What does this information and the adults’ concern look like to our kids, and how are they consuming information on apps like TikTok, Instagram, or Snapchat?
SA’s leading digital life skills expert, Dean McCoubrey, whose company MySociaLife teaches an 8-module social media program in SA schools, explains that the skill of critical thinking – the ability to question what may be true or false, safe or dangerous, right or wrong – is a key life skill in an explosive world of self-publishing, fake news, and cyberbullying. Consider how much time some teens (and even pre-teens spend online), what is interpreted and then discussed at school, irrespective of whether it may be fake news. Early cases of the virus have seen online hate and memes on some apps towards those with the virus.
Children and teens need to be guided about how to choose what content they consume about the disease, in addition to ongoing engagement with the adults they trust. Schools and parents often overlook the source of their children’s news.
“We’ve got more access to information about Covid-19 thanks to the internet and social media than we’ve had for any other global epidemics such as SARS, MERS and the various Ebola outbreaks, which is helping to manage and treat it,” McCoubrey says.
“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.”
There are a number of steps that parents can take to reassure children, discuss the implications of the disease, and equip them to self-manage their access to information. These include …