Adults and parents are being encouraged to interpret online information appropriately as the coronavirus continues to spread.
The advice comes as more people are leaning on social media platforms during the pandemic. New platforms can be filled with news, data, opinions and some misinformation.
Managing misinformation was one of the key topics during a virtual panel discussion Sunday hosted by Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.-10th). The first-term congresswoman talked about good digital citizenship and the responsible use of technology.
While considering people’s stressors during the time of social distancing and changes due to the virus spread, Loudoun County Public Schools School Psychologist Benjamin Fernandez said one of the biggest battles in coping with stress is managing misinformation.
Fernandez said, “Once we're able to make sense with what's going on with facts, then we can make our own perceptions of the threats that are out there, manage how we understand and how we process things, which then in turn as adults and as parents and caregivers we can model appropriate and coping and calm for our children and other children ...”
Common Sense Media, a nonprofit aimed at promoting safe technology and media for children, encourages people to be skeptical, understand the different types of media content and identify credible sources when managing misinformation.
CSM Regional Education Program Manager Barbara Huth echoed those tips when discussing the importance of finding credible information. Huth said, "I think that’s something for all of us to think about” as information is spread even faster.
Later in the roundtable, Huth discussed the challenges of learning and working remotely.
“This new normal is hard for everyone involved, and we’re all learning together whatever your role is in it," Huth said. “So, I just always say, lead with empathy, lead with compassion for your kids, for yourself, for your teachers, for everyone. And, you know, everything that we do is not going to be perfect, and that's OK.”
Havish Malladi, a high school senior from Fairfax County, shared his experiences with the group. He said he’s using the time to learn about other subjects and spending time with friends and family until spring break ends April 14.
Unlike Malladi’s experience, Fernandez said he expects there to be stress with remote learning for both students and teachers.
Fernandez discussed the challenges and concerns parents are having with COVID-19, advising viewers to practice self-care, create a schedule, and for parents, consider how they are serving as role models for their kids.
In terms of children maintaining relationships, panelists suggested playing online games and connecting with peers on social media platforms to practice social distancing.
“I think during this time where we're kind of isolated and while we're at it, it's more important than ever to really take a look at our schedules to say, we need to make sure we're taking care of ourselves, as well as getting things done," Fernandez said.
On March 31, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announced a stay-at-home order to mitigate the spread of coronavirus, and he recommended Virginians continue to follow social distancing guidelines if they must leave their homes. The executive order is in effect until June 10 unless updated or rescinded.
The number of positive coronavirus cases in Loudoun County has reached 167, including at least four deaths as of April 5, according to the Virginia Department of Health records. The governor said coronavirus cases in Virginia may peak between late April and late May.
Sunday’s roundtable, which included discussions on cyberbullying and monitoring online activity, was the first in a series of conversations centered around good digital citizenship.
“This is really important now, especially as we are all at home so much more on our devices,” Wexton said. “We need to spend a lot more time on them. We need to figure out the best way to navigate this transition and being a good digital citizen in the time of coronavirus will help all of our families better get through this really difficult time.”
Wexton represents the 10th District, which includes Clarke, Frederick and Loudoun counties, portion of Fairfax and Prince William counties and the cities of Manassas Park, Manassas and Winchester.
Watch the full online discussion below: