Those who consider television and social media to be trusted sources for COVID news – less informed
Photo credit: Pixabay / CC0 Public Domain
People who trust TV and Facebook to give them accurate news about the coronavirus pandemic are less informed about COVID-19, according to a new study that assessed people’s knowledge of the virus in the earliest stages of the pandemic .
The study, published today in peer-reviewed journal Current Medical Research & Opinion, interviewed 5,948 adults in Pennsylvania between March 25 and 31, 2020 and found those who viewed social media and television for news left, the facts are less likely to learn correctly about the coronavirus.
In fact, adults who used Facebook as an additional source of news in some way were less likely to answer COVID-19 questions correctly than those who didn’t.
“The rise of social media has changed the way people around the world keep up with current events. Studies show that up to 66% of Americans rely on social media for news, ”says Dr. Robert P. Lennon, Associate Professor of Family and Community Medicine at Penn State College of Medicine, one of the authors of the paper.
“This is worrying as misinformation and misunderstandings about COVID-19 and its spread likely fueled the pandemic, which has killed 2.5 million worldwide.”
By early March 2020, the COVID-19 outbreak had become alarming enough that Lennon and other Penn State University researchers quickly developed a survey to examine public knowledge, perceptions, and preferred sources of information about COVID-19. Within hours of being told they had been granted funding, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, and two days later the president declared a national emergency.
The survey quickly circulated to 5,948 Pennsylvania adults and provides insights into the public use of information amid a national emergency. Respondents answered questions about where they got their coronavirus news from and which news sources they trusted most. They then received 15 statements about COVID-19 and were asked whether they thought the statements were right or wrong and how certain they were of their answer.
The questions covered knowledge from multiple areas – transference, severity, treatment – and asked questions that were perceived as easy, medium, and difficult, respectively. As media coverage of COVID-19 escalated, knowledge questions became increasingly difficult to develop – an almost impossible question on Monday was so simple through Thursday it couldn’t be used.
The results showed that the most trusted news sources were government websites (42.8%), followed by television (27.2%) and health system communications (9.3%).
There was a clear link between the source of the news and their knowledge of the coronavirus. For example, participants who said their most trusted source of information were government health websites were more likely than other groups to answer COVID-19 questions correctly, while those who said their most trusted source was television news were less likely to answer COVID-19 questions correctly than other groups. Respondents who selected “Facebook” either as their most trusted source or as an additional source of information were less likely to get knowledge questions correctly.
The results highlight the importance of considering where people get their messages from when designing public health interventions. Instructions like “stay at home”, “wash your hands”, “wear a mask” and “distance yourself socially” are only effective if they are understood.
“Effective communication is critical to successfully managing a pandemic as the public must follow public health recommendations to contain the spread of the disease,” says Lennon.
“The first step towards compliance is understanding these recommendations. Hence, it is important that health communicators think about how the public gets their information and monitor these places to correct misinformation as it emerges. ”
Social media users are more likely to believe in misinformation: Study
Surav Man Sakya et al., The Impact of COVID-19-Related Changes in Media Use on Public Knowledge: Findings from a Cross-sectional Survey of Adults in Pennsylvania, Current Medical Research and Opinion (2021). DOI: 10.1080 / 03007995.2021.1901679 Provided by Taylor & Francis
Quote: Those who consider television and social media to be trustworthy sources of COVID news – less informed (2021, April 12), accessed September 5, 2021 from https://phys.org/news/2021-04-view- tv-social-media- trustworthy.html
This document is subject to copyright. Except for fair trade for private study or research purposes, no part may be reproduced without written permission. The content is provided for informational purposes only.