The COVID-19 pandemic has had a massive impact on the lives of young people. Lockdowns have been traumatic for many and have up-ended relationships, employment, and education. Research shows that now more than ever, young people are relying on getting health information online. With so much misinformation out there, it’s important to have trustworthy information in a format that engages young people.
With this in mind, Prof Rachel Fensham (Digital Studio, Arts), Prof Andrew Turpin (from Melbourne Data Analytics Platform, MDAP) and Prof Rachel Webster (Science) in July 2020 discussed ways the University of Melbourne might meet this challenge. They brought together a team of academics from across the university, including Dr Victoria Millar (Melbourne Graduate School of Education) and Dr Justin Filippou (School of Computing and Information Systems) as well as a number of Research Data Specialists from MDAP: Dr Aleks Michalewicz, Bobbie Shaban, Dr Kristal Spreadborough, Marc Nguyen (MDAP Intern) with Robert Turnbull (MDAP) as project coordinator.
With advice from the Department of Education and Premier and Cabinet, we identified a youth-oriented collaborating agency and partnered with VicSRC (Victorian Student Representative Council). Using a co-design methodology, we commissioned a production company, Either Either, to produce the ‘Living with COVID’ social media campaign. The campaign features six short videos, mostly distributed via Instagram and TikTok, focussing on a high school student named Eden who has to ‘deal with’ a character named COVID, as well as an accompanying website:
Each episode was based around a particular theme and points to a companion piece on the campaign’s website with a brief article on the topic, certified by a medical expert in the field. The themes were:
- What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
- How Does COVID-19 spread?
- How can I protect myself?
- How can I take care of myself? (Including caring for mental wellbeing amidst lockdown)
- Will socialising ever be the same?
- What does the future hold?
The episodes were promoted on a variety of different social media channels including the University of Melbourne’s official channels. So far, the videos have almost 200,000 views, and one episode produced the greatest number of views for any of the University’s social media posts. We have been congratulated by overseas health agencies, government and researchers about the campaign, and we hope that our audience are left with more reliable information to help them live with COVID.