People who trust TV and social media as reliable Covid news sources are less informed
A new study found that people who treat Facebook, other types of social media, and television as reliable sources of news about Covid-19 are less aware of the pandemic than those who follow more authoritative sources.
People who relied on social media and television were less likely to identify facts about the coronavirus in research conducted during the earliest stages of the pandemic, researchers at Penn State College of Medicine found.
The researchers found a “clear link” between the participants’ origins and their knowledge of the rapidly developing pandemic.
Conversely, people whose most trusted news source was either TV news or Facebook were less likely to give correct answers.
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The team provided 15 statements about Covid-19 to 5,948 adults in Pennsylvania and asked if they believed the statements were true or false and how certain they were of their answer.
Respondents were also asked which news sources they get their pandemic information from and which sources they trust most.
Government websites were the most trusted news sources, followed by television and health system communications.
“The rise of social media has changed the way people around the world keep up with current events. Studies show that up to 66 percent of Americans rely on social media for news, “said Dr Community Medicine at Penn State College of Medicine and one of the authors of the article.
“This is worrying as misinformation and misunderstandings about Covid-19 and its spread likely fueled the pandemic, the death toll of which now exceeds 2.5 million worldwide.”
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The study, published in the journal Current Medical Research & Opinion, highlights how guides on how to wear masks, wash hands, and effectively maintain social distancing are only effective when fully understood, said Dr. Lennon.
“Effective communication is a critical element in successfully managing a pandemic response as the public must adhere to public health recommendations in order to contain the spread of the disease,” he added.
“The first step in compliance is understanding these recommendations, so it is important that health communicators think about how the public is getting their information and monitor these locations to correct misinformation as it emerges.”