• Lisa D. Hawke University of Toronto
  • Mardi Daley Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
  • Jacqueline Relihan Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
  • Paris Semansky Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
  • Maya S. Sheth Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
Keywords: youth, pandemic, COVID-19, communication


As the COVID-19 pandemic evolves, it is important to continue providing accurate updates and public health information to various target audiences. In support of such efforts, this study aims to understand how youth have accessed information about COVID-19 and to record their perspectives on how such information is best communicated. As part of a larger longitudinal study, 463 youth (M = 21.2 years, SD = 2.2) were surveyed about their sources of information on COVID-19, with qualitative questions regarding their perspectives on optimal public health communication strategies. A majority of youth reported using online sources to access information about COVID-19, including online news sources and social media. They used a diversity of such sources, with a preference those they regarded as reliable. Participants recommended that public health information campaigns be conducted on a variety of social media channels. Other digital campaigns were also recommended, while some suggested providing information through schools. Information should be brief, engaging, accessible, and frequently updated, using verified sources to ensure accuracy. We conclude that, to reach youth effectively, it is essential that accurate COVID-19 information and public health guidelines be disseminated in an engaging manner using digital means, particularly social media. Communication campaigns should be developed in partnership with youth in order to best reach this audience with the information they need.


Download data is not yet available.


Metrics Loading ...

Author Biographies

Lisa D. Hawke, University of Toronto

Independent scientist, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

Assistant professor, University of Toronto

Mardi Daley, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

Youth engagement facilitator, Margaret and Wallace McCain Centre for Child, Youth & Family Mental Health

Jacqueline Relihan, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

Youth engagement facilitator, Margaret and Wallace McCain Centre for Child, Youth & Family Mental Health

Paris Semansky, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

Director, Communications and Public Affairs

Maya S. Sheth, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health

Research student


Abdoh, E. (2022). Online health information seeking and digital health literacy among information and learning resources undergraduate students. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 48(6), 102603.

Alagili, D. E., & Bamashmous, M. (2021). The Health Belief Model as an explanatory framework for COVID-19 prevention practices. Journal of Infection and Public Health, 14(10), 1398–1403.

Allington, D., Duffy, B., Wessely, S., Dhavan, N., & Rubin, J. (2020). Health-protective behaviour, social media usage and conspiracy belief during the COVID-19 public health emergency. Psychological Medicine, 1–7.

Bergström, A., & Jervelycke Belfrage, M. (2018). News in social media. Digital Journalism, 6(5), 583–598.

Bora, K., Das, D., Barman, B., & Borah, P. (2018). Are internet videos useful sources of information during global public health emergencies? A case study of YouTube videos during the 2015–16 Zika virus pandemic. Pathogens and Global Health, 112(6), 320–328.

Brashier, N. M., & Schacter, D. L. (2020). Aging in an era of fake news. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 29(3), 316–323.

Breland, J. Y., Quintiliani, L. M., Schneider, K. L., May, C. N., & Pagoto, S. (2017). Social media as a tool to increase the impact of public health research. American Journal of Public Health, 107(12), 1890–1891.

Dunn, M. R., DeJonckheere, M., Schuiteman, S., Strome, A., Herbert, K., Waselewski, M., & Chang, T. (2021). “Stay home so this can be over:” A national study of youth perspectives on social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Preventive Medicine Reports, 22, Article 101355.

Freeman, D., Waite, F., Rosebrock, L., Petit, A., Causier, C., East, A., Jenner, L., Teale, A.-L., Carr, L., Mulhall, S., Bold, E., & Lambe, S. (2020). Coronavirus conspiracy beliefs, mistrust, and compliance with government guidelines in England. Psychological Medicine, 1–13.

Gough, A., Hunter, R. F., Ajao, O., Jurek, A., McKeown, G., Hong, J., Barrett, E., Ferguson, M., McElwee, G., McCarthy, M., & Kee, F. (2017). Tweet for behavior change: Using social media for the dissemination of public health messages. JMIR Public Health and Surveillance, 3(1), Article e14.

Gruzd, A., & Mai, P. (2020). The state of social media in Canada 2020: A Canada-wide survey about social media adoption and use in Canada. Ryerson University Social Media Lab.

Harris, P. A., Taylor, R., Thielke, R., Payne, J., Gonzalez, N., & Conde, J. G. (2009). Research electronic data capture (REDCap): A metadata-driven methodology and workflow process for providing translational research informatics support. Journal of Biomedical Informatics, 42(2), 377–381.

Hawke, L. D., Barbic, S. P., Voineskos, A., Szatmari, P., Cleverley, K., Hayes, E., Relihan, J., Daley, M., Courtney, D., Cheung, A., Darnay, K., & Henderson, J. L. (2020). Impacts of COVID-19 on youth mental health, substance use, and wellbeing: A rapid survey of clinical and community samples. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 65(10), 701–709.

Hawke, L. D., Relihan, J., Miller, J., McCann, E., Rong, J., Darnay, K., Docherty, S., Chaim, G., & Henderson, J. L. (2018). Engaging youth in research planning, design and execution: Practical recommendations for researchers. Health Expectations, 21, 944–949.

Hawke, L. D., Szatmari, P., Cleverley, K., Courtney, D., Cheung, A., Voineskos, A. N., & Henderson, J. (2021). Youth in a pandemic: Longitudinal evolution of mental health and substance use concerns during COVID-19. BMJ Open, 11(10), e049209.

Heffernan, O. S., Herzog, T. M., Schiralli, J. E., Hawke, L. D., Chaim, G., & Henderson, J. L. (2017). Implementation of a youth–adult partnership model in youth mental health systems research: Challenges and successes, Health Expectations, 20(6), 1183–1188.

Hsieh, H.-F., & Shannon, S. E. (2005). Three approaches to qualitative content analysis. Qualitative Health Research, 15(9), 1277–1288.

Hyland-Wood, B., Gardner, J., Leask, J., & Ecker, U. K. H. (2021). Toward effective government communication strategies in the era of COVID-19. Humanities & Social Sciences Communications, 8(1), 1–11.

Kada, A., Chouikh, A., Mellouli, S., Prashad, A. J., Straus, S. E., & Fahim, C. (2022). An exploration of Canadian government officials' COVID-19 messages and the public's reaction using social media data. PloS One, 17(9), e0273153.

Kolff, C. A., Scott, V. P., & Stockwell, M. S. (2018). The use of technology to promote vaccination: A social ecological model based framework. Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics, 14(7), 1636–1646.

Kouzy, R., Abi Jaoude, J., Kraitem, A., El Alam, M. B., Karam, B., Adib, E., Zarka, J., Traboulsi, C., Akl, E. W., & Baddour, K. (2020). Coronavirus goes viral: Quantifying the COVID-19 misinformation epidemic on Twitter. Cureus, 12(3), e7255.

Kumar, S., Quinn, S. C., Kim, K. H., Musa, D., Hilyard, K. M., & Freimuth, V. S. (2012). The social ecological model as a framework for determinants of 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccine uptake in the United States. Health Education & Behavior, 39(2), 229–243.

Leeder, C. (2019). How college students evaluate and share “fake news” stories. Library & Information Science Research, 41(3), 100967.

McCrorie, A. D., Donnelly, C., & McGlade, K. J. (2016). Infographics: Healthcare communication for the digital age. The Ulster Medical Journal, 85(2), 71–75.

Metzger, M. J., Flanagin, A. J., Markov, A., Grossman, R., & Bulger, M. (2015). Believing the unbelievable: Understanding young people's information literacy beliefs and practices in the United States. Journal of Children and Media, 9(3), 325–348.

Mheidly, N., & Fares, J. (2020). Leveraging media and health communication strategies to overcome the COVID-19 infodemic. Journal of Public Health Policy, 41(4), 410–420.

Plohl, N., & Musil, B. (2021). Modeling compliance with COVID-19 prevention guidelines: The critical role of trust in science. Psychology, Health & Medicine, 26(1), 1–12.

Pulido, C. M., Villarejo-Carballido, B., Redondo-Sama, G., & Gómez, A. (2020). COVID-19 infodemic: More retweets for science-based information on coronavirus than for false information. International Sociology, 35(4), 377–392.

Statistics Canada. (2019). A portrait of Canadian youth: March 2019 updates.

Su, Z., McDonnell, D., Wen, J., Kozak, M., Abbas, J., Šegalo, S., Li, X., Ahmad, J., Cheshmehzangi, A., Cai, Y., Yang, L., & Xiang, Y.-T. (2021). Mental health consequences of COVID-19 media coverage: The need for effective crisis communication practices. Globalization and Health, 17(1), Article 4.

Su, Z., Wen, J., McDonnell, D., Goh, E., Li, X., Šegalo, S., Ahmad, J., Cheshmehzangi, A., & Xiang, Y.-T. (2021). Vaccines are not yet a silver bullet: The imperative of continued communication about the importance of COVID-19 safety measures. Brain, Behavior, & Immunity. Health, 12, 100204.

Twenge, J. M., Martin, G. N., & Spitzberg, B. H. (2019). Trends in U.S. adolescents' media use, 1976–2016: The rise of digital media, the decline of TV, and the (near) demise of print. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 8(4), 329–345.

World Health Organization. (2020). WHO Timeline - COVID-19.

How to Cite
Hawke, L. D., Daley, M., Relihan, J., Semansky, P., & Sheth, M. S. (2023). REACHING YOUTH WITH RELIABLE INFORMATION DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC: “SOCIAL MEDIA FOR SURE”. International Journal of Child, Youth and Family Studies, 14(3), 1-21.