How do I teach my child the difference between what is real, what’s fake and what’s virtual?
As time moves on and technology evolves, so does the way in which that technology is being used, for example AI (artificial intelligence) and CGI (computer generated imagery). You may have heard of the increasing concerns over deepfakes, where images of individuals (usually female celebrities) are mapped onto the face of an adult (sexual) performer. These videos are concerningly realistic, it’s very difficult to tell that they are fake. But within CGI we’re also seeing a rise in fake influencers too. For example, take a look at ‘Lil Miquela’ on YouTube or Instagram where she (it?) has 1.6 million followers. It isn’t difficult to see that Miquela is computer generated. You may be forgiven for thinking the images are of a real person and filters have been a little over-used, but the videos clearly show that it’s CGI. What’s more, advertising agencies are using the likes of Lil Miquela to ‘influence’ their products.
You might be asking why use CGI? I’m sure there are many reasons (e.g. you don’t have to pay a real influencer), but cartoons have always been used in the past to engage with children and young people, this just seems to be a modern version of that, albeit a much more realistic version, so you may be wondering, “how do I teach my child what is real and what isn’t or virtual?”.
It all comes down to critical thinking, the same logic we apply into any area of our lives; we ask ourselves simple questions, such as:
- What is the purpose of this image/video?
- What are they trying to do, or influence me with?
- Why are they talking about this product?
YouTube can be an amazing platform for children and the newer version of YouTube Kids (for children 12 and under) gives parents much more granular control over what children are seeing, but we can’t take our eye off the ball as there is always the potential for something unsavoury, whether that is inappropriate content or people (real or virtual) trying to influence the children to say, do or buy something. Be pro-active with your children:
- Watch a few of their favourite channels with them and discuss why they favour those channels. Talk to them about critical thinking using simple questions such as those above.
- If they are using YouTube to view videos about their hobbies, search together and discuss why you feel certain videos or channels may be inappropriate. Children need to know what the boundaries are, and they will only know if you tell them.
- Browse through the history every now and again just to satisfy yourself that nothing is untoward.
- Let them know to come to you if something isn’t right; that they won’t be judged or have their device removed from them.