DON’T GET PARANOID: HOW PARENTS CAN FIND RELIABLE INFORMATION
As a parent, you’re naturally alert for dangers your children may face. And often, caught between their “You worry too much” complaints and the world’s warnings, you aren’t sure what you should be alert for. Anyone who spends much time with news and social media knows more than they want to know about what’s lurking out there—whether what they “know” is true, false, or in between. Perhaps you’ve heard so many assertions from so many sides for so long, you’re wondering if you can believe anything you hear.
Ironically, the easier it is to find “information,” the harder you have to work to discern the right information. The basic rules are:
- Look to recognized experts first.
While no one is completely free of bias, some sources try harder than others to be thorough and objective. Scientists and scholars are the most reliable. Next come major news sources that regularly quote experts and seek a variety of opinions. At the bottom of the list are gossips (those who simply repeat what they hear on the street or from social media) and anyone focused on pushing a one-sided agenda.
It’s worth noting that some of the latter crowd are (often dangerously) prominent: a source can draw a lot of attention, hold a high position, or have a doctorate and still be unreliable. Be skeptical of anyone who makes authoritative pronouncements on subjects outside his expertise, or who refers to “science” and “experts” without citing a specific source.
- Be very slow to trust any source that:
- opens with an emotional punch (“your children are in imminent danger”) that clouds your ability to objectively consider whatever is said next
- accuses opponents of outrageous things (recent rumors of “deep state” pedophiles are only the latest manifestation of a “demonize those ‘others’” mentality that’s been around for centuries)
- is vague about its own “expert” sources and the “enemy’s” actual identity
- has a quick-and-easy answer for every well-documented counterargument
- is slow to present sound reasons for its opinions, but quick to insult and accuse
Any form of “everybody knows” or “‘those people’ are evil” indicates an unreliable source.
- With close-to-home worries, consider sources closest to the actual issue.
These may include teachers, businesspeople, local politicians, law enforcement, even your children themselves. Often, those who regularly experience a setting firsthand have clearer understanding of true risks (or the absence of such) than those who rely on official statistics.
- Don’t spend too much time with news or social media—period.
An hour a day maximum—with objective sources and different viewpoints—is sufficient for keeping up with whatever you need to know. More than that will teach your brain the habit of imagining dire things and chasing reassurance through doomscrolling. Turn off the screen and do something productive instead—something like taking positive action on whatever bothers you, or just playing with your children!