Talking to your kids about fake news

Ahead of UK Safer Internet Centre’s ‘Safer Internet Day’, psychologist and Internet Matters ambassador, Dr Linda Papadopoulos shares her expert advice on how to approach the topic of ‘reliability online’ with children – how to help them think critically about what they see online and what to do if they accidentally spread fake news.

Reliability online

The internet and social media have changed the way we learn about the world around us. Yet with so many sources of information, it can be hard to keep up with what is real and what is fake online. With so many sources of information online, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to make sense of what content is based on fact or fiction.

We recommend families to take part the ‘Find the Fake’ quiz; spotting misinformation and encouraging them to learn more about the issue in a fun way.

Launch of new interactive – ‘Find the Fake’ quiz

Our interactive and informative quiz ‘Find the Fake’; in partnership with Google, was created to test families knowledge on spotting fake news and encouraging them to learn more about the issue. It aims to spark conversations between parents and young people about how to recognise fake news and limit the negative impact it can have.

Dr Linda Papadopoulos’s six tips on how to talk to your children about fake news:

  • 1. Always talk to them about the source of information:
    The notion of ‘the source’ is key with any information that a child consumes, so talking about it in various contexts from the authors of texts to research and news sites will help them think critically about the ideas they are being presented with. Parents should always speak to their child about where they are getting information from. Even if it’s on reputable websites, it should be talked about so they can understand the importance of credible sources. It’s about teaching them critical thinking so they can judge for themselves what’s real vs what’s fake.
  • 2. Help them understand just because something is everywhere, doesn’t mean it’s true:
    It’s fundamental to point out that sometimes something that is inaccurate can be amplified online and become ubiquitous. Even if a story has been covered everywhere, it can still be fake. It’s not a new thing. You can look back through history books and see where this has happened on a grand scale through scurrilous rumour and propaganda. Don’t just accept something as fact because lots of people are talking about it.
  • 3. Give them examples:
    Talk about something that’s happened in recent history – such as those who believe the Earth is flat. Explain that of course, everyone should be able to air their opinions and ideas, but that there is a difference between ‘beliefs’ which are personal, and knowledge which is agreed upon by society and accepted only after it has been scrutinized by the scientific method and experts in particular fields. As such if they are unsure about something they can look to sources that aren’t based on personal beliefs but rather specialists and experts that have spent years studying a particular field- as opposed to people that are just perpetuating an idea.
  • 4. Foster a discussion about it:
    It’s really important to get them to foster discussion. One of the best ways that we can expose fake news is to ask questions, whether it’s in school or over the dinner table and get them to look at the evidence to substantiate their points while you do the same.
  • 5. If they have shared fake news, encourage them to put it right:
    Encourage them to admit ‘I’ve got this one wrong’. There’s nothing more, noteworthy and brave, and a true sign of character to admit that sometimes we get things wrong and it is a wonderful discussion to have with your children. Teach them that they will be more respected for it. Explain they should put it right as it could be annoying or harmful to someone else who sees it. You can help them to post out the messages if it’s the first time. It also helps normalise the behaviour in that child’s environment so others can do it too.
  • 6. Let them know that fake news should be reported and flagged:
    It’s also important to make sure they know how to report it to stop it from spreading further and affecting other people. Every social media site has its own guidelines and easy steps to take report content if you believe it is fake.

Additional thoughts

Dr Linda Papadopoulos said: “It’s increasingly hard to spot fake news stories in today’s world. Even reputable news organisations have found themselves reporting on fake stories in recent times.

“Fake news is dangerous because the decisions that we make in our lives are based on information that we have, and if that information is flawed, it means that we’re not making the best decision for our well-being and those around us.

“That’s why it’s important for parents to talk to their children about the issue, teach them critical thinking skills and media literacy. Together you can help them navigate their online world safety.”

Carolyn Bunting, CEO of Internet Matters said: “The theme for this year’s Safer Internet Day run by the UK Safer Internet Centre is particularly poignant. Unfortunately, fake news and misinformation are on the rise, and separating fact from fiction isn’t always easy.

“As well as following these expert tips from Dr Linda, we would always encourage parents to get children to think carefully about what they see and hear online. Help them check the source of the information and discuss the impact of reposting or sharing false information.

“You can also take our ‘Find the Fake’ quiz to test your knowledge and learn about fake news as a family in a fun and safe environment.”

Internet Matters ‘Find the Fake’ quiz launched today in partnership with Google. It aims to help families test their knowledge and learn about the types of fakes news, identify parts of content that are fake or misleading, and understand how fake news is written and distributed.

Test your knowledge and learn more about fake news by taking the ‘Find the Fake’ quiz here.

To learn more about fake news to support children head to the Fake News and Misinformation hub here.

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Play our interactive and informative quiz – Find the Fake now!

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Explore our fake news and misinformation advice hub to learn more about what fake news is, how to protect your child from it, and how to deal with it if they have been affected by it.

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