As COVID-19 cases skyrocket, particularly in Ontario’s young population, experts are urging health officials to make their messaging more readily available to the youth – preferably on the platforms they use most.
On Thursday, Premier Doug Ford said the province would be exploring other social media marketing options to stress the importance of being heard by the population.
“We’re going to be getting messaging out on TikTok and other social media areas,” he said in his daily press briefing.
But the bulk of these warnings thus far have painted young people as irresponsible, saying they should know better than to have wild parties they allege are the source of the surge.
To all our students and young people: No more parties.
We all need to do our part to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Next time you want to party, think about your parents, grandparents and other family members who are at most risk from COVID-19. We are doing this for them. pic.twitter.com/GpUx0wGz8x
— Doug Ford (@fordnation) September 10, 2020
At a premiers meeting on September 18, Ford cited “a big party of 150 people (where) there’s hugging and kissing and swinging off the trees.”
Health experts argue that shaming young people isn’t the right way to reach them.
“The main way that information is being delivered through the COVID-19 pandemic is through these daily press conferences which tend to happen in the middle of the day when most people under 40 are working,” says Dr. Naheed Dosani, a palliative care physician and medical director of Peel Region’s COVID-19 Homeless Response.
Dosani has taken to TikTok himself to provide more compassionate messaging directed at young people.
“When this info is being provided, it’s being provided in a way that often has a tone that’s blaming and shaming people. And so for these reasons and more I think it’s very important that we use social media platforms that people under 40 are using, like TikTok, like Instagram.”
Dr. Dosani says once he started making videos related to public health messaging around the pandemic, he discovered many young people were engaged and that they cared.
“They really do want to stop the spread of the virus,” he says. “They just want the message to meet them where they are at.”
Some officials have tried to appeal to social media users but didn’t quite stick the landing. Take this tweet from Canada’s top doctor that left people more confused than anything.
2/2 This time, we’ve got to bend it like Canadians: give it the old double-double by layering PERSONAL RISK ASSESSMENT and PREVENTION PRACTICES and RECONFIGURING and DOWNSIZING our in-person #ContactBubble, as and where possible.https://t.co/w27G7rpZu4
— Dr. Theresa Tam (@CPHO_Canada) October 2, 2020
Meanwhile, TikTok is filled with health professionals both here and south of the border getting messages through in a clear and concise way.
Peel Region, west of Toronto, also looks like they’re beginning to get the hang of it.
Dr. Dosani has some advice for public health officials looking to jump on the TikTok method of public messaging.
“Be clear in what you’re saying, be consistent in your messaging, be very concise, think about credibility of the deliverer of the message, and just please stop blaming and shaming people under the age of 40.”