According to a national poll, youths who correctly answered more COVID-19 exam questions reported less stress, anxiety, and unhappiness, as well as less loneliness and FOMO.
Washington State University researchers polled 215 youths aged 14-17 throughout the United States in July 2020, during the early months of the epidemic, for the study, which was published in the Journal of Child and Family Studies.
“Knowledge was a good thing. The teens who did better on our quiz tended to report lower depression, anxiety and stress — just across the board,” said corresponding author Chris Barry, a WSU psychology professor. “This is a one-time snapshot, so we don’t really know cause and effect, but one presumption is that having accurate information was connected to feeling a little bit more ease during that time.”
Participants were initially asked to answer true or false questions on COVID-19, such as how the virus spreads and the health dangers it poses, by Barry and co-authors Zeinab Mousavi and Brianna Halter. While there were some low results on the exam, the majority of participants performed well, with an average score of 15 out of 18 accurate, and 21.9% correctly answered all of the questions. The participants were then asked a series of questions on their well-being as well as their usage of social media.
While virtually all of the kids, 98.1%, utilised social media in some form or another, those with strong COVID-19 understanding who checked social media less frequently reported the lowest levels of worry.
“There are so many factors with social media,” she said. “For instance, it’s good that you are staying connected with your friends and getting some information, but maybe at a certain point it is making some things worse, giving you more anxiety, rather than helping you cope with the situation.”
The researchers also surveyed the teens’ parents to assess the level of lockdown measures the adolescents were under. They found that the more restrictive quarantine measures were associated with negative well-being for the teens, but that teens’ perceptions of the lockdown were particularly important for well-being. This indicates that perhaps the more that adolescents understood the reason for such measures, or perceived there to be some benefits, the more positive they felt in general, said Barry.
The findings underscore the need for parents and educators to give teens information especially in times of crisis, he added.
“In thinking about adolescent development in general, one of the things that we recommend from a developmental psychology perspective is open communication, so for the pandemic, that means honest, accurate information,” Barry said.
He further urged that parents not only recognise the stress and feelings of isolation that may accompany quarantine, but also assist teenagers in making the best of the situation. For example, if their children miss out on cancelled events, parents might assist them in finding alternative methods to connect with friends or participate in recreational activities. They should also aim to highlight any possible benefits of the experience.
“In an unusual situation like lockdowns, mindset matters,” he said.