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Month: May 2021

Responding to COVID-19 Misinformation in a Social Media Feed

Responding to COVID-19 Misinformation in a Social Media Feed

Social media play a large role in disseminating news on COVID-19 but they also have spread misinformation. Strategies have been suggested for correcting misinformation from fact-checking to digital and media literacy. Dr. David Buller, Director of Research at Klein Buendel, is studying an approach to responding to misinformation in a social media feed on COVID-19 and the reactions of participants to responses. He gave a presentation on the research at the University of Connecticut’s virtual mHealth Conference, May 13-14, 2021.

A total of 303 mothers with adolescent daughters who had previously participated in a social media campaign on indoor tanning were recruited in January 2021 and enrolled in a single-factor design comparing information sources in a 9-week Facebook feed (government agencies v. near-peer parents v. news media) with four assessments (baseline, 3 weeks, 6 weeks, and 9 weeks). The social media feed addressed non-pharmaceutical interventions such as social distancing, COVID-19 vaccination, digital and media literacy skills, and family communication about COVID-19. A community manager scheduled posts (5 per week), monitored reactions and comments, and responded to mothers’ comments that conveyed misinformation within 24 hours following a pre-established protocol. Misinformed comments were defined as being in opposition to recommendations of scientific authorities.

Of the 135 posts total (45 per group), 13% received comments containing misinformation (54 comments) and the community manager responded to 48 of the misinformed comments. Mothers posted the most misinformation in the near-peer parent group (27 comments); those in government agency group (17 comments) and news media groups (10 comments) posted less misinformation. Most comments with misinformation were in response to vaccination posts. The community manager’s responses to misinformation acknowledged mothers’ comments and then stated facts (such as efficacy and safety of vaccines) and cited evidence-based sources (such as the CDC) to refute the misinformation. The community manager also validated mothers’ concerns and confusion, if expressed in these posts, and occasionally stated personal experience or asked a follow-up question to promote dialogue. After responses were posted, ten original posters commented again and three reacted to the reply with “like/love”. Also, at times, other moms commented, reacted, or sent a private direct message related to response to misinformation.

Feeds on COVID-19 vaccines and non-pharmaceutical interventions can attract misinformation from individuals following them. Response strategies did not appear to generate a debate with mothers who posted misinformation, possibly because it conveyed an understanding of their positions or acknowledged their uncertainty or confusion rather than confronted them. Responses seemed to garner some supportive reactions from other mothers for the community manager, perhaps because the response made them feel supported to express their disagreement with the misinformation. These reactions could serve to reinforce the correction of misinformation for other followers of the social media feed.

This research is funded by a grant and supplement from the National Cancer Institute (CA192652; Dr. David Buller, Principal Investigator). Collaborating authors include Dr. Sherry Pagoto and Joseph Divito from the University of Connecticut; and Dr. Barbara Walkosz, Dr. Gill Woodall, Julia Berteletti, and Alishia Kinsey from Klein Buendel.

Engagement with a Social Media Campaign for Mothers to Reduce Permissiveness for Daughters’ Indoor Tanning

Engagement with a Social Media Campaign for Mothers to Reduce Permissiveness for Daughters’ Indoor Tanning

Indoor tanning (IT) by adolescents increases lifetime risk of developing melanoma. Dr. David Buller, Director of Research at Klein Buendel, is leading an examination of a social media campaign for mothers to reduce their permissiveness toward indoor tanning by their teenage daughters. Dr. Buller presented findings on mothers’ engagement with the social media campaign – Health Chat – at the D.C. Health Communication (Virtual) Conference, April 23-24, 2021.

Several states require parents to consent or accompany minor children using IT facilities. Engagement of mothers with the social media campaign was examined to see if it modified campaign effects on mothers’ permissiveness for their teen daughters to indoor tan. Mothers (N=869) with daughters aged 14-17 were recruited in 34 states that do not ban IT by minors under 18 for a randomized trial with follow-ups at 12-month and 18-month post-randomization.

Mothers received an adolescent health social media campaign in Facebook private groups. Half of mothers were in a group in which the campaign included posts about preventing IT (intervention) and the other half, included posts on preventing prescription drug misuse (control). Engagement was measured by extracting reactions (e.g., like, sad, etc.) and comments posted by mothers to the campaign posts addressing IT or prescription drug misuse. Follow-up surveys assessed mothers’ permissiveness for daughters to indoor tan, i.e., whether mothers would permit daughters to indoor tan or facilitate them doing so (e.g., take them to a tanning facility). Daughters (n=469; 54.0%) were invited to complete baseline and follow-up assessments.

Mothers were mostly non-Hispanic white, college educated, and had household incomes exceeding $80,000. Nearly one-third had a family history of skin cancer and just over one quarter had high-risk skin types. At 12-month and 18-month follow-up, engagement with the social media campaign moderated the impact of treatment group on mothers’ permitting and facilitating IT by daughters. Specifically, among mothers who engaged with the campaign, mothers in the intervention group had lower permissiveness for IT and less facilitation of IT by their daughters than in the control group. These differences did not occur between treatment groups among mothers with no engagement in either permissiveness or facilitation at either follow-up.

Social media campaigns may be used to improve IT public policies by decreasing mothers’ permissiveness and increasing communication with daughters about avoiding IT. However, social media messages need to reach and engage mothers to be effective, in this case on convincing mothers to not permit or facilitate daughters’ request to indoor tan. Prevention messages, when interspersed in a social media feed on adolescent health, may reduce IT by female adolescents by improving compliance with public policies restricting minor access to IT facilities.

This research is funded by a grant and supplement from the National Cancer Institute (CA192652; Dr. David Buller, Principal Investigator). Collaborating authors include Dr. Sherry Pagoto and Jessica Bibeau from the University of Connecticut, Dr. Kimberly Henry from Colorado State University, Dr. Katie Baker and Dr. Joel Hillhouse from East Tennessee State University, and Dr. Barbara Walkosz, Julia Berteletti, and Lucia Liu from Klein Buendel.

Online Responsible Vendor Training in Recreational Marijuana Stores

Online Responsible Vendor Training in Recreational Marijuana Stores

A collaborative research team with scientists and staff from Klein Buendel, the Prevention Research Center in Berkeley, California, and the University of Alabama, Birmingham recently published the results from a randomized trial testing an online responsible vendor training program in recreational marijuana stores in the United States. The team was led by Dr. David Buller, Director of Research, and the results were published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs (JSAD).

The responsible marijuana vendor (RMV) training program implemented in the study was Train To Tend®. Train To Tend is an interactive, media-rich, online, comprehensive RMV program created by Klein Buendel. It’s five modules address state laws and regulations, preventing sales to minors, health effects of marijuana, customer service, and rules of the trade. Train To Tend provides state-approved instruction and certification of cannabis sellers. 

In the JSAD publication, the authors detail the measures, methods, analyses, and results of the randomized trial to evaluate the impact of the RMV training program on refusing sales to buyers without proper identification. The trial was conducted with 175 recreational marijuana stores in Colorado and Washington State using a pseudo-underage patron procedure. The results showed that online RMV training could increase sellers’ refusal of potential buyers at entrance to the store who looked youthful and did not provide state-approved identification.

As more states legalize recreational marijuana sales, responsible vendor training in the safe sale of cannabis products can become more essential to helping to ensure youth and community safety.

This research was funded by a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse at the National Institutes of Health (DA038933; Dr. David Buller, Principal Investigator). Co-authors on the publication include Dr. Robert Saltz from the Prevention Research Center in California; Dr. Gary Cutter from the University of Alabama, Birmingham; and Dr. W. Gill Woodall, Andrew Grayson, Mary Klein Buller, Sierra Svendsen, and Xia (Lucia) Liu from Klein Buendel.