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With reports of learning losses, depression and anxiety, and lack of socialization, parents are worried their kids may suffer the consequences of the pandemic for years to come. The bad news is children have of course been affected. The good news is it doesn't mean it will be for the long run. Parents share their stories while experts weigh in.
By Sarah Lindenfeld Hall
February 23, 2021
A year into the pandemic, the stress had gotten to be too much for Beth Phillips's 11-year-old son. He kept hearing about people the family knew who died from COVID-19. Not understanding the higher risks that come with pre-existing conditions, he thought that if anybody in his immediate family got COVID, they would die.
"He came to me the other day and said, 'Life just doesn't feel like it's worth living anymore because I'm just scared,'" says Phillips, who lives in Texas. "He just started crying."
It wasn't the first time her son had expressed hopelessness during the pandemic. Before his birthday in October, Phillips asked him how he wanted to celebrate. "He said, 'I don't want to do anything. It doesn't even feel like a birthday; there's no point,'" his mom remembers. "It was really sad. We couldn't get him out of that funk."
The pandemic has unearthed a myriad of challenges across generations. But for kids it can be especially stark. Emerging research shows that the impacts of the pandemic could be long lasting as some kids struggle with serious mental health issues or face setbacks in their academics and ability to socialize with others.
Experts point to school closures.
"Schools are really the heart of meeting a lot of needs of young people," says Karen VanAusdal, senior director of practice at CASEL, the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning. "When you remove that, there are ripple effects in our society."
Of course, not every child is struggling in the same way. Some are flourishing in isolation—and instead worry about reentering school and society when it's safe. Others have found new ways to socialize with friends safely but might be failing in school. And some are missing out on the vital services they need to grow, including meals, therapy, and mental health services they would get at school.
"We need to acknowledge that there has been a whole spectrum of experiences," says VanAusdal, who works with school districts across the country on social and emotional learning programs. "We have to figure out how to address that full range of experiences."
The Academic Slide
As schools shut down last spring, Phillips grew frustrated with the quality of the virtual education her three boys—then in preschool, first grade, and fourth grade—were getting. "It was a lot of busy work," she says. "They weren't really learning anything." Now her kids are back at in-person school, and she's pleased with their progress.
And while Nancy Brier's 17-year-old daughter, a high school junior in California, is doing well in her coursework, which is all virtual, Brier has been concerned about screen time and dismayed by some teachers who she says haven't been mindful of it. Her daughter ultimately dropped one class because it was too much.
Nancy Brier and her family
Many school districts have mounted a massive effort to distribute devices and hotspots to kids who need them. And countless teachers have incorporated creative ways to ensure kids are learning and engaged online. But glitchy software or slow internet connections dampen those efforts. And as parents attempt to work and supervise their kids at the same time, some don't have the resources, knowledge, or time to help with every technology issue or tutor them in fractions.
"One of the biggest takeaways is that there is no average kid right now," says Ryan Balch, Ph.D., a former teacher and senior lecturer in education policy at Vanderbilt University. "The situation varies school by school. The situation varies teacher by teacher, and it varies house by house."
But what research shows is that many kids are struggling to learn, particularly students who were marginalized before the pandemic because of their socioeconomic status, race, or learning differences.
Last fall, the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University calculated a "COVID slide" in 19 states that totals between 57 and 183 days of learning loss in reading and 136 to 232 days of learning loss in math in spring 2020 for students.
In October, Bellwether Education Partners, a nonprofit that researches education issues, estimated that as many as 3 million students may have simply stopped going to school in March 2020. Many of these missing students live in low-income households and are more likely to be Black, Latino, or Native American, according to the report.
The worst-case scenario is that this learning loss will carry forward, impacting a child's achievement through school and their success into adulthood. "The divide gets worse and worse if the original issue isn't fixed," says Dr. Balch.
But there is some good news, says Halley Potter, senior fellow at The Century Foundation, a progressive nonpartisan think tank. Research shows that students can recover lost learning if school districts have the funding and resources for summer learning programs, extended school years, and intensive tutoring. A study from ERS, a national nonprofit that partners with local and state leaders, found that with targeted tutoring, kids can make up one to two years of academic growth. But, says Potter, school systems across the country will need funding and flexibility to make that happen.
"One of the things that I would really like to see is our leaders in Washington stepping up and providing significant support for summer learning, especially for low-income students over this next summer," she says.
The community—from parents to local businesses—also will need to step up to provide support, such as tutoring, says Dr. Balch. "All cards need to be on the table, all options need to be present, all hands on deck," he says.
And as school districts look for ways to support students who need to catch up, Potter says they also should note what's working now, including why some kids have thrived during remote learning and how some children of color have felt less of a burden because they're away from long-standing discriminatory practices. Research, for example, has shown racial disparities in how kids are disciplined at school. "There's a real opportunity to seize on some of those learnings to try and reinvent things," she says.
Mental Health Issues on the Rise
At school one day, when her middle son's second grade teacher told him to switch out his gaiter for a face mask, Phillips was shocked to hear he'd thrown a chair in class. "He must be dealing with bigger things that he doesn't know how to name or how to deal with and that caused him to act out like that because he's never done that before," she says.
And her oldest son, who has ADHD and is in special education classes at school, has seen a counselor in the past. His teacher and school counselor provide great support at school, she says, but she's thinking about possibly sending him back for more counseling. Phillips, who works in public relations, has clients in the mental health space, and she's read the reports about suicide and kids during the pandemic.
"That scares the hell out of me. I just don't want him to be one of those statistics," she says of her oldest son. "That's just always in the back of my mind."
Beth Phillips and her family
Jennifer Rothman, senior manager of youth and young adult information, support, and education for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, says we don't know what the impacts of the pandemic on kids' mental health in the long run will be just yet. New reports, however, paint a scary picture across nearly all age groups.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that while overall rates of emergency room visits have decreased during COVID, the proportion of visits related to mental health emergencies, when the patient may be a danger to themselves or others, has grown—up 24 percent for kids ages 5 to 11 and 31 percent for kids ages 12 to 17.
Those emergencies include suicidal ideation. It's not clear if there was a spike in suicides last year, but there are signs that it could be a problem. Las Vegas is reopening schools because of student suicides there. And across the country, as youth sports were canceled, there is a troubling trend among young athletes who have died by suicide.
Meanwhile, the National Eating Disorders Association has seen a 46 percent increase in the number of minors contacting them for help—22 percent of total contacts from March 2020 to December 2020 were minors compared to 15 percent from the year before. Eating disorders have the second highest mortality rate of any psychiatric illness, just behind opioid addiction, according to the association.
When kids tell Martha Perry, M.D., a pediatrician and medical director of UNC Children's Primary Care Clinic in North Carolina, that they don't understand why they're feeling so bad, she points out what they're missing. Even if they didn't enjoy school, they've lost the daily routines of school life, including a regular eating and sleeping schedule and physical movement at recess or to and from class, along with time around other people.
"All these things impact your mood and energy, and all of that is gone," says Dr. Perry. "So it's not surprising that we're seeing the increase in depression and anxiety, in particular."
She's especially worried about teens. Biologically craving independence, they prefer to get support from their peers, who they may be shut off from during the pandemic. And parents, who may think their teens need less supervision than younger kids because they appear so capable on the outside, might not be catching red flags that they need help.
"On the one hand, they are old enough to take care of themselves physically," says Brier, the mom of a 17-year-old. "But on the other hand, they are still so needy. And I think that, as parents, is really important for us to hold that in our hearts."
The bottom line is every child is responding differently to months without normal activities and isolation from regular contact with friends. And some kids are more prone to mental health issues. Rates of anxiety and depression and suicide among kids and teens were growing even before COVID, according to the CDC. And while it's not clear if the recent rise in mental health issues will linger in the future, it's important for parents to know these illnesses are treatable.
If parents believe their child is struggling with a mental illness, a good first step is to contact their pediatrician for an evaluation, says Rothman. "From there, your pediatrician will be able to refer you to specialists to decide on what treatment options will work best for your child," she says. "The earlier your child starts treatment, the better the outcomes."
A Need for Socialization
After a move that took her family from Chicago to Baltimore last spring, Shefali Shah's 5-year-old daughter is thriving. She moved seamlessly into her new school and has gotten to know—from a distance—the older adults in the neighborhood who miss their own grandchildren.
But Shah worries about her 2-year-old son, whose only playmate is his older sister. And when it's time to emerge from the pandemic, she wonders how they'll react when they can get on airplanes and see far-flung family members. "It's going to be a transition where they always wonder, 'Is it OK if I hug them? What if they hug me?'" she says.
LaTasha Perkins, M.D., has similar worries about her own 2-year-old daughter, who recently recovered from COVID. The family doctor knows that, developmentally, her daughter would normally be playing in parallel with other kids, side by side as they do their own thing. To ensure she's around kids, she takes her daughter to the park. And she's considering putting together a pod of one or two children so her daughter can play with others.
"I've been thinking about that the whole time," says Dr. Perkins, who works at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C. "I do want to make sure that she's acclimated and used to interacting with people and playing in parallel."
LaTasha Perkins, M.D., and her 2-year-old daughter
On a positive note, VanAusdal says that social-emotional development for most kids has continued during the pandemic as they learn to form healthy relationships or understand and manage their emotions at home. They may be forming closer bonds with parents or, like Shah's younger son, regularly playing with siblings. "Lots of [socialization] can happen with siblings and family," she says.
Younger children have a leg up when it comes to the pandemic's social impacts. Toddlers and preschoolers are typically happy to be at home with their family. Some grade schoolers have found new ways to socialize with friends, whether it's going for bike rides or building online Minecraft worlds together. Teens have remained connected via social media and other platforms.
Brier's 17-year-old daughter participates in school basketball and cheer practices via Zoom and has been able to spend more time on her YouTube channel, Lauren Reporting Live, where she recently uploaded a video talking about the five classmates you'll have in your distance learning class. "She's been able to have a lot more creative expression in her life," says Brier.
Of course, not every child has the same opportunities. For some children, especially those without daily necessities, such as food or a stable home, or who are trapped with an abusive parent, these past many months have been traumatic, says Michael Thompson, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and author of Best Friends, Worst Enemies: Understanding the Social Lives of Children. But if kids have what they need most—love from the people around them and the knowledge that those people are keeping them safe—they will be emotionally whole, even after challenging experiences, he says.
"We have to sort out the fact that most families have tried to rally and done the very best they could to keep their children safe and keep them learning," says Dr. Thompson. "And we have to give them credit for that. When a parent does that, a child is likely not going to be traumatized."
Most kids are resilient, experts say. But at a time when parents and leaders are concerned about kids' well-being, VanAusdal hopes school districts place as much emphasis on social-emotional development as they do on academics going forward. Research shows that kids who participate in social-emotional learning programs do better in school, are better behaved, and are better able to manage stress than those who don't.
"I think we can build on this momentum and understand and push against the narrow focus on learning loss and understand that social-emotional learning is very much tied to academics and growth," she says. "You can't separate them; they go hand in hand."
Shefali Shah and her two kids
How Parents Can Help Their Kids Move Forward
As the COVID vaccine is rolled out and a light begins to glimmer at the end of this long COVID tunnel, there are ways to help kids now during these difficult times and prepare them for what's next. Here's what experts say.
Take care of yourself
While parents are naturally concerned about their kids, Rothman's biggest worry is the stress and heaviness that's weighing on all members of a family, including parents. Her No. 1 tip for parents is to make sure they're taking care of themselves and seeking help when they need it. "Self-care is extremely important when you're caring for others," she says. "Make sure you're in the right state of mind to be able to take care of your children."
Focus on routines
In-person school schedules require specific routines for sleeping, eating, and physical activity. As the days blend in together, it's been easy to slip out of any daily regularity. Bring it back. "Try to keep a routine as much as you can at home," says Rothman. Make bedtimes and mealtimes consistent. Ensure your kids are as active as possible.
Just walking up and down the stairs between virtual classes can help to simulate the movement that happens during a normal school day, says Dr. Perry. That return to a school-like pace to the day, she adds, also can help kids when it's time to reemerge.
Listen with empathy when kids tell you how they're feeling, says Dr. Thompson. Don't try to simply reassure them. "Reassurance is pretty thin gruel until you've listened and empathized," he says. "And reassurance is not empathy. Empathy is, 'I get it, sweetie. I see why that's scary for you.' The moment a parent gets it, the child thinks, 'I'm not alone with this.'"
Take time for teens
If you have a teen, check in with them regularly, even if they push you away. It doesn't take much. Dr. Perry recommends scheduling 20-minute weekly one-on-one sessions with them, playing a video game together, or doing something else that they enjoy. Approach it as an opportunity to be together, not to take corrective action. And when opportunities present themselves, perhaps a story in the news about teens during COVID, ask them open-ended questions about what they're hearing from friends or feeling themselves, says Dr. Perry.
Stick to concrete information
If they come to you worried about getting sick with COVID or what life will look like in the future, only share what you know, says Rothman. "Make sure you understand it first," she says. "And then be able to put it into bite size pieces for the kids, so they feel safe."
Find the positives in learning
If you're worried about your child's academic progress this year, Dr. Balch says it might be time to reframe your definition of success. While they might not have learned decimals, they may have learned how to open attachments in an email. "If you think about where actually the workforce is going and where the needs are going, what is more important now? Knowing a decimal or knowing how to open an attachment?" he says. "At a certain point, we do have calculators, but you're always going to have to use email at work."
Plan to move forward, not back
Life will likely remain different even after everyone is vaccinated, schools reopen, and kids can attend birthday parties and playdates again. There might still be face masks and a limit on hugs. That's why Dr. Perry counsels not to think about "going back," but moving forward instead.
"We're not waiting. We haven't hit the pause button. We are moving forward," she says. "We are all growing from this. Looking for that silver lining and helping teens and kids find that is really important. … If there's an expectation that we're going back to the same ways, we're not going to meet that expectation."
The Bottom Line
Whether it's dealing with learning losses, mental health issues, or missing out on a social life, it's no secret kids of all ages have been affected by the pandemic. The good news is there are ways for parents to step in and help their children move forward without them suffering long-term effects. That might mean getting outside help, but remember, there's nothing wrong with that, and neither is embracing the fact you're doing the best you can.
Authored By: Daniel Lewis
Last Update: June 8th, 2020 Author: Rachel Green and Wendy Rhodes
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These statistics have some professionals referring to this wave as an anxiety epidemic that transcends gender and socioeconomic barriers with a profound effect on Americans’ overall health.
What are Stress and Anxiety?
In a medical or biological context, stress is a physical, mental, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension.
There are various types, but in general, stresses can be categorized as external (from the environment, psychological, or social situations) or internal (illness, or from a medical procedure).
It is important to distinguish between the natural, normal and occasional feelings of anxiety and an anxiety disorder that needs medical attention.
How to Tell the Difference Between Stress and Anxiety?
Stress and anxiety share many of their symptoms, therefore it can be difficult to tell the difference between them.
There may be a difference between the cause and origin of the two as well. Stress tends to be a short term effect and happens in response to a recognized threat.
Anxiety on the other hand may linger and does not necessarily have an identifiable trigger.
Symptoms of Stress and Anxiety
When someone is under threat, danger, or feels like being so, their body releases stress hormones. These cause the heart to beat faster, among other things. Breath rate and blood pressure increase. All for the purpose of alertness, readiness to deal with those dangers.
Let’s see a non-comprehensive list of common stress symptoms:
- rapid heart rate
- faster breathing
- muscle tension
- sweaty palms or feet
- difficulty swallowing
- dizziness or fainting
- sleeping problems
- poor concentration
- loss of sexual drive
- loss of appetite
Common anxiety signs and symptoms include:
- hyperventilation or rapid breathing
- sense of danger or panic
- poor concentration
- irrational anger
- gastrointestinal problems, diarrhea or constipation
- sleeping problems
Both stress and anxiety can cause mental or emotional symptoms in addition to physical ones.
Types of Stress and Anxiety
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), there are two types of stress: acute and chronic.
Acute stress is short-term and more common.
Chronic stress develops over a long period and is more dangerous and harmful. Chronic stress makes it difficult for the body to return to normal, mostly due to the disturbed levels of stress hormones. A constant state of stress may lead to serious illnesses and contribute to everyday problems and can affect everyday life.
Anxiety, as mentioned earlier, is normal in certain situations and life events. When the duration or severity of anxiety goes beyond natural anxiety, it can reach the stage of a disorder, and be called anxiety disorder.
Several types of anxiety disorders exist, just to name a few:
- generalized anxiety disorder
- post-traumatic stress disorder
- anxiety disorder due to a medical condition
- agoraphobia (fear of places or situations)
- panic disorder
- separation anxiety disorder
- social anxiety disorder
What Causes Stress and Anxiety?
Most people experience stress and anxiety on a regular basis. They come and go, usually around important life events.
People also react differently to situations. Some might be stressful for one, while not causing any effect to others. Even previous experiences can affect how people react to the same stress event.
The event or external stimulus causing stress is called a stressor.
- work-related problems, starting a new job
- illness or injury
- family issues
- death in the community or family
- marriage, relationships
- traumatic events
Treatment and Management of Stress and Anxiety
There are several ways people can treat and manage stress and anxiety.
Stress treatment typically includes some form of self-help, like meditation, relaxation techniques, change of habits or certain circumstances. For example, quitting a highly stressful job may and should not feel like a failure, but a promise for a better future.
Many Americans are looking for effective, natural ways to reduce stress and, thereby, improve their overall sense of well-being.
Talking about problems and worries, finding and naming the stressors can help. The partner can be a friend, a family member, a colleague, a coach or a professional.
Exercise is generally accepted as beneficial, especially when done regularly and in moderation.
Like sleep, a balanced diet can also help manage anxiety symptoms naturally. Foods rich in magnesium (leafy green vegetables), zinc, and probiotics have been shown to lower anxiety in adults.
Limiting caffeine and alcohol consumption is also helpful managing stress and anxiety.
Healthy eating combined with good sleep habits can have drastic results in combating anxiety.
People who get less than 7 hours of sleep on a regular basis are more likely to suffer from stress and anxiety, among various other health issues. There are many ways of promoting good sleep, starting with losing bad practices before going to bed to using sleeping aids like sensory or weighted products.
The popularity of weighted blankets has soared over the past year with reports that they can help reduce the symptoms and effects of stress and anxiety by using the science of Deep Touch Pressure (DTP).
Deep Touch Pressure can be an effective way to naturally stabilize the nervous system. Since stress and anxiety are rooted in instability, DTP can be implemented through the use of weighted blankets, weighted vests, and compression clothing.
Before examining the different products available for DTP therapy, let’s take a look at what may cause anxiety levels to rise in the body and how DTP can help.
Managing Stress and Anxiety
Managing the source is often the most effective way of handling stress or anxiety. Removing the stressors from life is difficult or close to impossible sometimes.
Altering how someone views or handles a stressful event can have an impact on current and future stress levels.
Learning alternative ways of coping is also important. A counselor or psychotherapist can certainly help with techniques and therapies for further improvement in someone’s daily life.
Further Information about Stress Hormones
Cortisol and Stress
Cortisol is sometimes called “the stress hormone” which is secreted by the adrenal glands. While it performs many functions in the body, it also kicks production into high gear during stressful situations.
A healthy diet, exercise, and sleep are some of the natural ways to lower cortisol levels. Cortisol levels naturally lower themselves during sound sleep cycles.
However, because stress can cause insomnia (and because sleep is needed to reduce cortisol and stress) many people find themselves stuck in a vicious cycle of anxiety and insomnia.
Weighted blankets and vests can be a great way to naturally implement the tactile sensory technique of DTP to treat anxiety.
In the same way that a hug can comfort a scared child and swaddling can soothe a crying baby, weighted blankets, bests, compression clothing can also help adults naturally manage their stress and anxiety.
Not only can weighted blankets reduce cortisol production, they can also promote the production of serotonin. Dubbed “the happy hormone”, serotonin transmits messages between nerves and brings feelings of general well-being and happiness.
When to Talk With a Doctor
Weighted blankets and other DTP techniques can be used in conjunction with professional treatment, but not as a substitute for medical help when dealing with clinical depression.
There are multiple benefits that weighted stress or calming blankets can provide, both physically and emotionally. Lowering blood pressure and heart rate, increasing circulation, and improving sleep patterns can all help alleviate the symptoms of anxiety.
While some severe cases of anxiety require medical intervention, natural methods can also help manage stress and anxiety.
Weighted blankets and Deep Touch Pressure are great ways to treat anxiety naturally. Consider the benefits of DTP and curl up under a weighted blanket for an anxiety-free night.
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By Kristyn Kusek Lewis
December 11, 2014
The wait-and-see approach is fine for some kids' health problems ... But not these.
Is It Serious?
CREDIT: HEATHER WESTON
When you become a parent, you earn a medical merit badge of sorts. Whether you're sopping up a goopy nose or extracting a dangling-by-a-thread baby tooth, eventually few things faze you. But sometimes it's tough to tell what warrants a call to your doctor's office: Which temperature actually classifies as a "high fever"? What kind of tummy ache means your child has more than your average stomach bug? And when something truly frightening happens—say, your child suddenly breaks out in hives—should you call your pediatrician or head straight to the E.R.?
"Parents should always err on the side of caution and seek immediate medical care when they're worried about something," says Anita Chandra-Puri, M.D., a pediatrician at Northwestern Memorial Physicians Group, in Chicago, and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics. However, to give you more specific guidelines to follow, we talked to top pediatricians about the 12 symptoms that always require medical attention.
7 Kids' Symptoms You Should Never Ignore
Symptom #1: High Fever
CREDIT: TRISH GANT/GETTY IMAGES
A fever that's 100.4F or higher in a baby younger than 3 months; higher than 101F in a baby 3 to 6 months; or higher than 103F in a child 6 months to 2 years
Pediatricians stress that when fever strikes, the number on the thermometer isn't as important as your child's disposition. The one big exception: infants under 3 months old, who need immediate medical care if fever rises to 100.4F. "If their fever is caused by a bacterial infection like a urinary-tract infection, it could quickly spread through the body," says pediatrician and Parents advisor Jennifer Shu, M.D., coauthor of Heading Home With Your Newborn: From Birth to Reality. "It's usually just a common virus causing the symptoms, but we have to check it out to be sure." It's important to call your doctor right away; if it's after office hours, be on the safe side and head straight to the E.R. In kids older than 2, fevers aren't urgent as long as your child appears to be well hydrated and acting normal. Call your pediatrician for guidance.
Symptom #2: Long-Lasting Fever
A fever that doesn't go down with treatment, or that lasts more than five days
If you've given your child a fever reducer like acetaminophen or ibuprofen and the number on the thermometer doesn't budge within four to six hours, call your pediatrician. This is a sign that the infection may be too strong for the body to fight off, and your doctor may want to do a thorough examination to determine the cause. A fever caused by a common virus like cold or flu typically goes away within five days. One that hangs on longer—even when it's low-grade (100.4?F)—may be caused by an infection like bacterial pneumonia, which requires antibiotic treatment, explains Alanna Levine, M.D., a pediatrician at Orangetown Pediatrics, in Tappan, New York.
Symptom #3: Fever With Headache
CREDIT: IMAGE SOURCE/VEER
A fever that's accompanied by a stiff neck or headache or a rash that's either bruise-like or looks like tiny red dots
Call your doctor—these can be signs of meningitis and need immediate attention.
When to Worry: Fever
When is a spiking fever serious enough to call the doctor? Watch our video to learn how to soothe your baby.
Symptom #4: Circle-Shaped Rash
CREDIT: ALEXANDRA GRABLEWSKI
A rash that resembles a bull's-eye or consists of tiny red dots that don't disappear when you press the skin, or excessive bruising
A ring-shaped rash with a pale spot in the center can signify Lyme disease. Get help right away if you see pinpoint-size spots under the skin, which can signal many serious conditions. Any inexplicable, widespread bruising may be a sign of a possible blood disorder. In addition, a splotchy rash, often a little raised, may be a sign of an allergic reaction. If your child also has difficulty breathing or is agitated or lethargic, she should be checked immediately by a doctor.
Symptom #5: Unusual Mole
A mole that's new or changing
Keep tabs on your child's moles, especially any that she's had since birth, because those have a higher risk of becoming malignant, says Parents advisor Ari Brown, M.D., a pediatrician in Austin and author of Baby 411. Do a monthly skin check during bathtime. Alert your doctor if you notice a mole that's irregularly shaped, has ragged borders, is not all one color, or is raised. All of these are signs of a potential skin cancer.
Symptom #6: Sudden Stomach Pain
CREDIT: JENNY RISHER
Stomach pain that's on the lower right side, or that's sudden and crampy and comes and goes
If your child has pain on the lower right side, ask him to jump up and down—if it's excruciating for him to do so, it can be a sign of appendicitis. Although the appendix is on the lower right side of the abdomen, the pain caused by appendicitis can start around the belly button and migrate to the right. "With a normal stomach virus, there's typically fever, then vomiting, then stomachache and diarrhea," says Dr. Brown. "With appendicitis, it's sometimes diarrhea, then abdominal pain, then vomiting, then pain, then fever." If you notice these symptoms, call your doctor—appendicitis progresses quickly and it's most effectively treated when caught early.
If your child is under age 4 and has stomach pain that causes him to double over one minute and be fine the next, it could be a sign of intussusception, a serious disorder usually affecting young kids where one part of the intestine slides into the other. The pain shows up in 20- to 60-minute increments and can be accompanied by vomiting, fever, blood in the stool, or bowel movements that have a telltale "currant jelly" appearance. "Call your doctor if your child only has severe pain," says Dr. Levine. "If there's crampiness plus signs in the stool, head straight to the hospital."
Symptom #7: Headache With Vomiting
CREDIT: BRANDX/ JUPITER
A headache that occurs in the early morning or wakes her up in the middle of the night, or that's accompanied by vomiting
These could be signs of a migraine. Your doctor can determine the appropriate treatment. Migraines in kids are not dangerous, and tend to run in families. However, morning and middle-of-the-night headaches can also be a signal of something more serious, and that's why you want to see a doctor right away.
Symptom #8: Decreased Urination
Dry mouth and lips, decreased urination, a flat fontanelle (in an infant), dry skin or skin that stays bunched when you pinch it, or excessive vomiting or diarrhea
These signs are all associated with dehydration and need to be treated fast because dehydration can lead to shock. Call 911 or get to the hospital if you think your child is nearing this stage. Otherwise, call your doc and try to get more fluid into your child.
Symptom #9: Blue Lips
CREDIT: TARA DONNE
Blueness or discoloration around the mouth; labored breathing where you can see your child sucking in his chest and abdomen; or panting, grunting, or a whistling sound when breathing
"Breathing problems are more worrisome when the sounds come from the chest and lungs, not the nose," says Dr. Shu. Critical breathing issues are often due to choking, an allergic reaction, an asthma attack (which can occur in kids as young as a few months old), pneumonia, whooping cough, or croup. Seek help right away or call 911. If it's not obvious that your child is having serious trouble, check his respiratory rate. Count each breath taken in for 30 seconds and then multiply by two. A normal rate is less than 60 for newborns; less than 40 for babies under 1 year; less than 30 for 1- to 3-year-olds; and less than 24 for 4- to 10-year-olds.
Symptom #10: Swollen Face
CREDIT: OJO IMAGES/VEER
Swollen tongue, lips, or eyes, especially when accompanied by vomiting or itchiness
These often signal a serious allergic reaction (anaphylaxis). Symptoms may include swelling, breathing problems, and severe hives and need immediate attention. Call 911 and, if possible, give your child a shot from an EpiPen or a dose of an antihistamine like Benadryl in the meantime. For less severe reactions, call your doctor and ask about giving an antihistamine to quell symptoms.
What Do Hives Look Like on a Baby?
Can you spot the symptoms of hives? See how to identify the telltale signs of an allergic reaction.
Symptom #11: Vomiting After Falling
A fall when your child is less than 6 months old, or has obvious neurological changes like confusion or loss of consciousness, or that causes vomiting and/or any damage to the body, such as broken bones
These emergency situations must be addressed by a doctor—so head to the nearest medical facility. Falls are generally not problematic in kids older than 6 months if they only fall the distance of their height and don't land on anything hard or sharp.
Symptom #12: Excessive Bleeding
CREDIT: CORBIS PHOTOGRAPHY/VEER
A cut that gapes open widely enough that you could stick a cotton swab in it, or that doesn't stop bleeding within a few minutes of applied pressure
These are signs that your child needs medical attention (and perhaps stitches, skin glue, a butterfly bandage, or staples). Depending on the severity of the injury, your next step should be to either call 911, go to the E.R., or call your pediatrician. You should also always see your doctor if an animal bites your child or if another child bites your child and breaks the skin.
By Sharon Hurley Hall
March 19, 2020
In the last three years, there’s been a rampant increase in reports of the use of digital marketing tools like social media to spread false information, commonly referred to as “fake news.” From the supposed deaths of many celebrities (like the Cher story below) to election tampering, it seems that this trend is – unfortunately – here to stay.
This is a particularly dangerous trend in the era of the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. It’s often difficult to know how dangerous the virus is, who’s most affected, and what steps people should take to deal with it. For example, one popular fake news story, seen by thousands of people, suggests colloidal silver as a cure. However, the US FDA and FTC have denounced this as a scam.
But the more people talk about fake news, the less clear it is what exactly fake news entails, and how it actually spreads.
In this guide, we delve into the fake news phenomenon. You’ll learn:
- The definition and types of fake news
- The history of fake news
- How fake news spreads
- The psychology of fake news
- Fake news statistics
- Fake news in different digital marketing genres
- Where you’re likely to find fake news
- How to recognize and report fake news
We’ll also look at the top fake news websites, and assess the future of fake news.
Fake News in the Time of Corona
From fake cures to useless products, fake news about Covid-19 is spreading fast. Amazon has already deleted more than a million items deemed to be false advertising or price gouging.
The problem is, it’s not just a case of misinformation, but literally a matter of life or death. For example, the “miracle mineral supplement” contains a type of bleach and has serious side effects. And drinking alcohol to slow the virus, as some did in Iran, only results in alcohol poisoning.
To know how to handle the coronavirus, it’s more important than ever to be able to weed out reliable information (likely provided by your local health authority) from the fake stories that are rife on social media.
Fake News Defined (and Key Terminology)
A good place to start is with the definition of fake news. However, it turns out that there are almost as many fake news definitions as fake news stories. (Just kidding, but you’ll see what I mean.)
The OECD Forum Network defines fake news as:
“journalism or information that either deliberately or unintentionally misleads people and distorts reality by spreading false information, hoaxes, propaganda, or misrepresentation of facts”
The Cambridge Dictionary’s fake news definition is:
“false stories that appear to be news, spread on the internet or using other media, usually created to influence political views or as a joke”
And Projekt Neptun defines fake news as:
“the distribution of false or questionable information that is either completely invented or sold as factually correct news”
Common elements are that the information is presented as news, that it’s false, and that it’s often widely distributed via social media.
Fake News Glossary
While fake news is a fairly common term these days, there are a bunch of other terms that refer to the same – or similar – issue. Here’s a breakdown of the most common offenders:
- Disinformation– false information meant to deceive or mislead, sometimes spread via the media as a government tactic
- Misinformation– false information, sometimes intended to mislead
- Propaganda– biased information which promotes a particular viewpoint
- Clickbait– content or headlines created to get attention and win clicks, but which may have little substance and may be misleading
- Computational propaganda– the use of bots to manipulate public opinion via social networks
- Post-truth– relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief
- Filter bubble– referring to the situation where web users only get information that reinforce the views they already have
- Deepfake– the use of AI technology to make or alter images or videos to show something that didn’t happen (an example is the Dali Lives exhibition by the Dali Museum in Florida, which brought the deceased artist back to life)
Types of Fake News
In addition to the terms above, Digital Marketing Philippines divides fake news into five categories:
- Satire or parody – this is intended to be humorous, but sometimes people share these stories as if they are real
- Misleading news used in the wrong context– this is where some facts are omitted, leading to a skewed view of what’s happened
- Sloppy reporting to achieve a certain agenda – similar to the above, and may result in clickbait headlines
- Misleading news based on popular narrative, not on facts– this can include urban myths
- Intentionally deceptive– true fake news as defined earlier
History and Rise of Fake News
Although people are talking about fake news a lot now, it turns out that fake news really isn’t all that new. The UC Santa Barbara Center for Information Technology and Society (CITS) says that fake news has been around for centuries.
Once the printing press was developed in the mid-15th century, information could be widely dispersed. That meant any organization that could benefit from pushing a particular perspective or agenda could start spreading misinformation, disinformation, and fake news.
Fast forward to the late 19th century, when technology became the catalyst for the next era of fake news. While people had been publishing newspapers for quite a while, the development of automatic typesetting and advances in communication technology made wider, faster circulation of information possible. But some of that information was definitely misleading.
Tabloid Journalism Grabs the Headlines
During this time, some papers would publish fake information just to win the headlines and attract readers (a bit like clickbait today). This was known as yellow journalism. In fact, there was a famous rivalry between US publishers Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst in the 1890s, which is thought to have led the US into the Spanish-American War.
While eventually, there was some backlash as people started wanting more reliable and dependable news stories, the headline-grabbing trend never fully went away. Tabloid journalism like that published by the National Enquirer in the US (shown below) and papers like the now-defunct News of the World in the UK have continued to be popular.
At this point, most people recognized sensationalism when they saw it. But that was to change as further advances in technology began to play a role in the spread of fake news.
Fake News in the 21st Century
Fake news is often associated with the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump. Indeed, he has often claimed to have invented the term.
In fact, it turns out that the person who invented and popularized the term “fake news” was Buzzfeed editor Craig Silverman. He started using the term in 2014 when he was running a research project on websites that spread unverified rumors but were designed to look like real news sites, and continued using it when he moved to Buzzfeed.
Coverage of fake news became more frequent with the 2016 US election. Subsequent to that election, it’s come out that Russian bots may have had a hand in popularizing anti-Clinton news stories and, therefore, directly leading to the election of Donald Trump.
Coverage of fake news became more frequent with the 2016 US election. Subsequent to that election, it’s come out that Russian bots may have had a hand in popularizing anti-Clinton news stories and, therefore, directly leading to the election of Donald Trump.
But this is not a problem that is unique to the US There’s a fear that elections across the globe have fallen prey to the same phenomenon.
As the US election interference story began to evolve, search for the term “fake news” peaked in 2017.
It’s now in common use, with an updated definition added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2019. People are even making fake news generators to help people create their own false news stories. While they are intended to be a bit of fun, they have helped spread fake news.
More recently, there’s been another twist. In addition to the accepted definitions of fake news, there’s a trend to dismiss any story that doesn’t match a person’s worldview as fake news, whether it’s factually true or not. As the BBC points out:
“All sorts of things – misinformation, spin, conspiracy theories, mistakes, and reporting that people just don’t like – have been rolled into it.“
While there are some stories that cross the globe, there are also those for particular localities. In Switzerland, a rumor spread via WhatsApp that hospitals were overloaded and people with Covid-19 were in beds in the hospital hallways.
In Africa, there are fake news stories about using Dettol or shaving your beard to fight the virus. In Italy, fake news about a lemon juice cure supposedly originating in China was shared more than 30,000 times. In India, a YouTube video about the origins of the virus (wrongfully claiming it originated from seafood) was viewed almost 5 million times.
In a global information society, and with a global pandemic, people are searching for information wherever they can find it. This type of fake news has the potential to stop people from taking the action that’s actually proven to work, while they focus on untested and unproven information.
Fake News: What’s Changed
We’ve seen the history of fake news and some of the terms that have been used to describe it over the centuries. But in the 21st century, fake news looks a little different from those early iterations.
Here’s a look at some of the key differences today:
- There are ideological interests in spreading fake news rather than simply tabloid journalists looking to sell papers. Several countries, including Russia, have been implicated in different misinformation campaigns.
- This distortion of news is done with the deliberate intent to deceive.
- It’s not always clear when a story is satire or fake because the way the stories are presented has evolved to fit seamlessly into social media spaces.
- Social media aggregation(rather than printed or online publications) is a key mechanism for spreading fake news.
- The spread of fake news is amplified by social media algorithms (more on that later) and social media fan and follower networks.
Fake news has become increasingly difficult to discern as reputable publications try to get more attention online, using tactics like clickbait headlines to make content more appealing and more likely to go viral.
This results in a situation where digital misinformation – yet another term for fake news – is a huge threat. As you’ll see, the latest fake news statistics show just how huge the problem has become.
Fake News Statistics
The latest fake news statistics reveal two main problems. First, fake news spreads insanely quickly. And second, it’s not always easy to identify fake news. The proliferation of coronavirus fake news stories, which are quickly shared, is proof of this. According to JSTOR, around 62% of adults in the US get their news on social media sites. And many report that they believe fake news stories.
A study cited on Mobile Marketing in early 2019 shows that almost one-third of adults with a social media account have seen something they consider to be fake news within the past week. That percentage rises to 51% over a three-month period.
People read headlines and think they are getting reliable information. But although 97% of people think they can easily spot fake news stories, a recent study suggests that fake news can be more difficult to identify than people think.
While fake news crosses political affiliations, Facebook is seen as the site where fake news is most prevalent. Some 70% of people said they had seen fake news on Facebook during the previous month. That compares with 54% on Twitter, 47% on YouTube, 43% on Reddit, and 40% on Instagram.
A big issue with fake news is its virality. Fake news can be more widely shared than real news on platforms like Facebook. And an MIT study shows that fake news spreads faster on Twitter than real news. On that platform, real news takes six times longer to spread than fake news.
The same MIT study shows that humans are more likely to spread fake news than bots. But as we’ll see, machines also have a huge role in the spread of fake news.
How Fake News Spreads
So how is it that fake news is able to spread so quickly? Senior Fellow at the George Washington University Center for Cyber & Homeland Security Kalev Leetaru believes that we have turned over information gate-keeping to machines and algorithms, trusting them blindly even though we shouldn’t.
Instead of looking for information ourselves, we accept what we are fed and that’s a big danger. As Leetaru points out:
“These social media algorithms are optimized for virality and addictiveness, rather than truthfulness and evidentiary reporting. The more emotional, fact-free, and false a post is, the more likely it is to be pushed viral by these algorithms.”
But there’s also another factor. Once the algorithms surface the stories to be shared, it only takes a few people to make them go viral. For example, during the 2016 US election, a Futurity study found that 0.1% of Twitter users (super sharers) are responsible for sharing the majority of fake news. And 1% of Twitter users (super consumers) were exposed to 80% of said fake news. Since the majority of us are all hyper-connected, this amplifies the reach of the stories.
Research published on Science Advances shows that over-65-year-olds spread more fake news on Facebook than younger users. This holds true regardless of gender, ethnicity, income, education, or political affiliation. While the study did not say why this is the case, it suggested that lower digital literacy skills among older users and the effect of aging on memory could be factors in this trend.
Where Fake News Comes From
Who are these people spreading fake news, and where does it come from? An IEEE report found that fake news generally originates from less popular or less known websites or media outlets, and tends to be spread more by unverified social media users.
Other fake news may be carefully selected old news on topics known to be divisive, or something that’s true or real but is published in the wrong context. There’s always someone who hasn’t heard the news before, and who’s likely to spread it.
Apart from the human spreaders of fake news, there are also the artificial originators of that news. A University of Oxford report paints a bleak picture of the fake news situation. For example, since 2017, organized social media manipulation of false information has more than doubled.
Fake News in Politics
The interference in the 2016 US election is now a matter of record (recently reinforced by the testimony of foreign affairs expert Fiona Hill). But there’s another political case that demonstrates the pervasiveness of fake news. A dGen report on Brexit (the UK’s planned exit from the European Union) found that:
- Fake news around the Brexit referendum was heavily influenced by bots. One study of ten million tweets, showed 13,493 bots appeared just before the referendum and then disappeared just after, suggesting the goal was to influence the vote.
- The public was unable to get balanced information, and many failed to evaluate and cross-check the news they were getting.
- Some journalists reported opinions instead of being objective in a bid to satisfy their audience.
- There was bias in reporting on the EU; a later investigation found that 45% of BBC coverage was negative, compared to only 7% of stories that were positive.
- Both social media and news coverage were biased toward the Leave position, and half of the activity of Leave-supporting Twitter users amplified tweets that supported that position.
Fake News and the Coronavirus
So, what are some of the rumors about the coronavirus that have now been debunked? Here are a few of the most persistent ones:
- Anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen will increase the spread of Covid-19. This is false. However, because ibuprofen has side effects for people with certain conditions, many doctors now recommend paracetamol for treating coronavirus symptoms.
- The “miracle mineral supplement” (MMS) mentioned earlier has been promoted as a coronavirus cure, but may actually cause vomiting and diarrhea because it contains chlorine dioxide.
- Colloidal silver, other minerals, and certain types of teas, are being suggested as possible cures, though again, health authorities have said these are false.
- There are multiple rumors about city shutdowns and quarantines. Most are false. Local authorities are the best source of reliable information on these.
- Inhaling hot air from a hairdryer won’t help people with the coronavirus
- Living in a hot climate, or exposure to cold, won’t stop the spread of the virus
- Corona beer sales are down because of the similarity in the name. According to the company, US sales have actually increased.
The UK Government on Fake News
The issue has become so pressing that the UK government published a report into fake news. It concluded that:
- The fake news epidemic was putting democracy at risk.
- The laws that had been previously created for the newspaper age weren’t fit for the internet age.
The Psychology of Fake News
Another factor in the spread of fake news is human psychology. When our brains are overloaded, we have less time to make informed judgments. That can lead us to fall back on social proof.
In other words, if enough other people think that a particular story is true, we may well believe the same rather than go through the trouble of fact-checking it for ourselves. In fact, 59% of people share social media messages and stories without even reading them. Since we rely on cues to decide what we should trust, someone with an agenda who knows how to craft a story the right way and spread it via social media bots can easily manipulate our reaction.
In relation to fake news about the coronavirus, this plays into another aspect of human psychology says Stanford University professor Jeff Hancock. The global pandemic makes us uncertain, and we look for information to reduce that uncertainty. Information that makes us feel better or gives us a target to blame can help us to feel better. He says it’s one of the reasons for the extreme popularity of conspiracy theories.
Fake News and Digital Marketing
Since social media is one of the main ways fake news spreads, it’s helpful to see how it affects other areas of digital marketing. While email marketing is not a key tactic for spreading fake news, some marketers try to use fake news to their advantage via content marketing.
For example, the Ohio Pork Council created and promoted a story about a bacon shortage as a marketing ploy, and even set up a website to support the claims (it’s now offline).
The problem with using fake news as a marketing tactic is that it can backfire. In the case of the Ohio Pork Council, it may have engineered a short-term boost in bacon sales, but it could also make people less likely to believe the Council the next time it posts. In other words, publishing fake news (and sharing it via email marketing) can erode trust in your brand.
Does Fake News Hurt Your Brand?
As you can imagine, it’s not just a question of the erosion of trust when talking about the effect of fake news on your brand. Using fake news in your digital marketing results in poor quality and is a pretty lazy approach, says Smart Insights.
But there’s also another good reason why it is something that you want to avoid. It turns out that if ads and promotions for your company are placed next to fake news stories, then your brand is tainted by association. People will be less likely to buy your products, visit your store, or say something positive about your brand.
The best advice for any marketer is, instead of using fake news in content marketing, consider taking the opportunity to become known for trustworthy content. That’s because fake news has a big impact on how people see your brand.
Fake News and Social Media: What the Public Thinks
While the previously cited UK government report focused largely on the use of Facebook in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, one of its key conclusions was that Facebook is not accountable enough for what is being perpetrated via its platform. In fact, external attempts to hold the social media site accountable have met with limited success.
But accountability is exactly what social media users want. Research from the Chartered Institute of Marketing says that 85% of people believe that social media sites should be responsible for removing fake news. In addition, 79% think that social media platforms should monitor fake news.
As fake news stories continue to surface, trust in social media content is beginning to decline. The Chartered Institute of Marketing survey showed that, compared with 2014, the number of people who said they trusted content on social media had almost halved. It now stands at 34%, which means two-thirds of people don’t trust social media content. And only 1% of those surveyed were confident that the content they see on social media is genuine.
Despite this growing distrust, it seems fake news content still gets shared. And there’s no incentive for those peddling fake news to stay honest. If they keep getting clicks and shares, they’ll keep churning out fake news.
What Social Media Sites Are Doing About Fake News
With the finger of blame pointed squarely at Facebook and Twitter, the pressure is on for those sites to do something about the fake news epidemic.
In the past year, there have been a number of initiatives. For example, Facebook has made it easier for people to check the source of a news story. Here’s how it works. News stories have a little information button you can click:
Facebook has also said that, ahead of the 2020 US election, the information will be fact-checked and clearly labeled to avoid the spread of fake news. Meanwhile, Twitter has announced that it will ban all political ads on the platform, something that Facebook has steadfastly refused to do. While it’s not a blanket ban on fake news, it should help address the issue, since so much fake news is about politics. And Instagram began a global rollout of improved fact-checking tools in December 2019.
How Tech Companies are Handling Coronavirus Fake News
The world’s biggest social media companies may usually be deadline rivals, but they’ve come together to combat the coronavirus fake news epidemic. Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter, Linkedin, Reddit, and YouTube issued a joint statement to say they are working to:
- Fight misinformation and fraud related to Covid-19 information
- Give authoritative content on the virus a more prominent position on their platforms
- Coordinate the sharing of valid information with government and care agencies worldwide
- Banning misleading advertising (Facebook)
- Banning content aimed at fostering panic (Facebook)
- Verifying accounts that give access to official UK NHS advice (Twitter and Facebook)
Top Fake News Websites
Who’s originating the fake news that is being shared? It turns out that fake news is a big business, with many getting paid to come up with stories pushing a perspective, and start them off on their social media journey. For example, a Guardian report suggests a public relations firm received a payment of $2,000 for promoting biased newspaper articles in support of one candidate running for Congress.
A story in The Hindu suggests that Indian interests are managing 265 fake news sites in more than 65 countries. And CBS published a list of common fake news sites, including:
- Your News Wire
- World News Report
There are dozens more, many collated in this list on Wikipedia.
How to Combat Fake News
It’s a worrying trend that some people are unable to distinguish between real news and fake news. Here are some ways that you can avoid being among them.
NPR suggests that it pays to be skeptical about what you view online. Just as you do when you’re preparing a research paper, look to see if the same information is coming from different sources.
Importantly, these have to be sources that are known to be trustworthy, such as reliable news sources or unbiased government or educational websites. It’s even more important to do this due diligence on hot button topics or issues where some people could benefit from pushing a particular viewpoint or agenda. Check that the statements presented in an article are verifiable by looking for the sources.
Since we can’t always trust that publications or organizations will verify the information for us, it is important to take matters into our own hands. Luckily, while apps and algorithms can help spread fake news, they can also help you to identify it and stop it in its tracks. It’s just a matter of training the algorithms to recognize it.
One option for fact-checking is the Informable app from the News Literacy Project.
The app helps you figure out whether:
- Stories are news or opinion
- Stories are really ads
- Claims in the stories are backed up
WhatsApp, another common source for spreading unverified information, has its own checklist of things to look out for. One key tip is to be aware that, even if something is shared multiple times, it doesn’t necessarily make it true.
The social messaging app urges you to:
- Pay attention to messages that have been forwarded so that you can tell whether they originated from the person that sent them to you
- Check whether photos have been doctored
- Look out for suspicious links
- Help stop the spread of fake news by asking the person who sent information to you to verify it before you share it yourself
An app called Check by Meedan helps you fact check WhatsApp stories.
And there’s an experimental fake news detector where you can type in a story and immediately check its veracity.
That’s because research suggests that there are subtle differences in language between verified information and a fake news story.
Meanwhile, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales has launched WT Social, a paid news-focused social media site that aims to share only verified information.
The UK government has simplified spotting fake news into a five-point checklist, which it calls the SHARE checklist:
- Source – check if the source is trustworthy
- Headline– ask yourself if what follows the headline is believable
- Analyze– check the facts
- Retouched– see if the image has been manipulated
- Error – watch out for fake URLs, especially those that have been badly spelled
Finally, you can also check fake news on Snopes.com and other popular myth-busting sites.
Where to Find Reliable News About the Coronavirus
If you’re looking for reliable information about the coronavirus, here are some useful resources:
- The World Health Organization’s coronavirus updates page
- The Centers for Disease Controlin the US
- The NHSin the UK
- Reputable news sources either within your country, or those that offer global live coverage like the BBCand CNN
- Your country’s, city’s or town’s official health information
- Global statistics on Covid-19 cases, like this page from Worldometer
Next, we look at what you do if you find fake news on a particular platform.
How to Report Fake News
As social media and web users, we all have a part to play in combating the spread of fake news. Don’t just recognize and ignore fake news; help to stop it by reporting it. Every fake news story we successfully get rid of makes the web a slightly more trustworthy place.
Most social media sites have an easy way for you to report spam. Recently, many have expanded this functionality to allow social media users to report misleading information.
Facebook has the functionality to let you report misleading accounts. For example, if you suspect your friend’s account has been cloned or hacked, you can report any information you believe to be false. This functionality works for flagging questionable material, too.
Once you click on Find support or report posts, you can report fake news directly. There are several options for feedback on questionable content, including marking it as false news.
Similarly, Twitter allows you to easily flag and report spam accounts. And in 2019 it launched a tool to help people report fake news directly during election campaigns. This adds “it’s misleading about voting” to the other reporting options.
You can also report false information on Instagram. And in Google search results, you can use the feedback tool to report misleading information and attach a screenshot of it.
The Future of Fake News
Is fake news here to stay? It seems like it. People are more informed about fake news than they were in the past, but that still doesn’t mean that they are able to spot it.
A report looking at fake news in the US in 2018 found that people saw less fake news that year than they had the year before. However, some people, such as hardcore partisans on both sides of a political battle, see quite a lot of it.
Plus, if you’re on platforms like Twitter, where US President Donald Trump posts regularly, you’re even more likely to be subjected to fake news. Since taking office, he’s known to have made more than 15,000 misleading statements. And he’s also been shown to have made several false claims about the spread of coronavirus and responses to the pandemic in the US.
Although social media sites are taking steps to safeguard users against fake news, these measures seem woefully inadequate. A test by Nieman Lab showed that Facebook itself was only able to spot 30% of fake news stories. That suggests that 70% of fake news stories could still be seen and shared.
Options for muting and blocking certain content are also inadequate. In an ideal world, social media sites would be so good at weeding out fake news that users would never see it at all. That doesn’t look like it’s going to happen any time soon.
In fact, fake news remains a huge cybersecurity issue and a threat to democracy.
There is some hope. As Mark Schaefer points out, one of the big issues surrounding fake news is the lack of laws surrounding its publication. But one country has already started to deal with that issue.
Singapore’s controversial Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulations Act (POFMA) came into effect in October 2019. Under the law, those found to be publishing false information that goes against the interests of the country could attract fines of up to $720,000 (USD) and jail terms of up to ten years. For this reason, it’s been criticized as a law that allows for the stifling of dissent.
Within a month, that law had been applied for the first time to a Facebook post questioning whether investment firms were independent. As a result, a correction notice and a link to a government statement about the post were added to the original post.
Other countries taking steps to fight fake news legally include France, Germany, China, and Kenya. In some cases, it’s because of upcoming elections; while in others, it seems like a case of being prepared.
What Next for Fake News?
In the 21st century, we’re in the reputation era where being trustworthy is more important than ever before. This is especially important among younger millennials, who are already interested in companies’ ethics, are a major consumer segment, and who will soon be of voting age. And it’s essential when the spread of fake news affects our ability to get reliable information about the coronavirus pandemic.
Self-regulation isn’t yet effective, so legal remedies such as the Singapore law may become the only option for fighting fake news. Another valid approach is education. Finland has tried this with some success, and is now ranked as the most media literate country in the world.
Meanwhile, the European Union has an action plan to address online disinformation and the Law Library of Congress is collecting information on initiatives around the world to combat fake news. There’s also a sliver of hope from online activist group Avaaz, which actively fights online misinformation, and reports on fake news.
These may provide more strategies for fighting fake news in the long run. One thing’s for sure, though, with elections happening constantly around the world, and people invested in influencing voter opinion, the issue of fake news isn’t going away any time soon.
In this in-depth guide, you’ve learned:
- How fake news is defined, and some of the other key terms that describe this kind of online falsehood
- Different types of fake news, ranging from those intended as satire to those intended to deliberately deceive
- The rise of fake news including a peak period around the 2016 US election and Brexit
- How technology is used to create and spread fake news with some help from human sharers
- The impact of fake news in digital marketing
- How you can spot and report fake news and what social media sites are doing about it
- What’s likely to happen with fake news in the near future
Sharon Hurley Hall
Sharon Hurley Hall is a professional writer and blogger. Her work has been published on Jilt, OptinMonster, CrazyEgg, GrowthLab, Unbounce, OnePageCRM, Search Engine People, and Mirasee. Sharon is certified in content marketing and email marketing. In her previous life, Sharon was also a journalist and university journalism lecturer.
Some Children Are Developing a Mysterious Blood Illness That May Be Related to Coronavirus
Fifteen children have been hospitalized in New York City with the illness, with similar cases being reported in Europe.
By Julie Mazziotta
May 05, 2020
A small number of children in the U.S. and Europe have been hospitalized with an unknown blood illness that may be related to the new coronavirus, COVID-19.
Doctors say that the mysterious, “multisystem inflammatory” illness they’re seeing in children is similar to two known conditions: toxic shock syndrome, a life-threatening bacterial infection, and Kawasaki disease, a very rare, but treatable, condition more common in babies and toddlers that causes inflammation in blood vessels.
Doctors in the U.K., Spain and Italy had previously reported seeing a few cases of the illness, and on Monday night, the New York City Department of Health put out a memo to hospitals warning that there have now been 15 identified cases in the city’s hospitals.
The 15 children in NYC are between the ages of 2 and 15 and have symptoms similar to toxic shock syndrome and Kawasaki disease. All have had a fever, and most have had a rash, abdominal pain, vomiting or diarrhea. Four of the children have tested positive for COVID-19, but the other 11 did not.
None of the children have died, but most needed blood pressure support. And while the majority did not have respiratory problems, five needed to be put on ventilators.
NYC health commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot asked doctors to look out for patients who may have this illness.
“Even though the relationship of this syndrome to Covid-19 is not yet defined, and not all of these cases have tested positive for Covid-19 by either DNA test or serology, the clinical nature of this virus is such that we are asking all providers to contact us immediately if they see patients who meet the criteria we’ve outlined,” she said in the memo.
“And to parents, if your child has symptoms like fever, rash, abdominal pain or vomiting, call your doctor right away,” she added.
COVID-19 does not appear to affect children in the same way that it is attacking adults, although a small number of children in the U.S. have died from the virus. This illness, while worrisome, also seems to be very rare.
New York state health commissioner Dr. Howard A. Zucker said that they are investigating the illness.
“So far, from what we understand, this is a rare complication in the pediatric population that they believe is related to Covid-19,” he told The New York Times. “We are following it very closely.”
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