Learn what fake news is

With so many sources of information online, it has become difficult to make sense of what content is based on fact, half-truths or lies. The use of digital platforms to share things we believe to be true when they may not be can have a powerful ripple effect, influencing others to see them as facts.

This can be especially dangerous for children and young people who can be persuaded to take on distorted views of the world that could cause them or others harm in the real world. This page explains what fake news is and how it can impact those who see it.

What is fake news?

What’s on the page

What is misinformation and fake news?

Advice on how to spot false news
Display video transcript
Social media is changing the way we get

our news fake news can be found embedded

in traditional news social media or fake

news sites and has no basis in fact but

is presented as being factually accurate

this has allowed hackers controls even

politicians to use the net to spread

disinformation online our children can

struggle to separate fact from fiction

thanks to the spread of fake news here

are some basic strategies to help them

develop critical digital literacy talk

to them children rely more on their

family than social media for their news

so talk to them about what is going on

read many people share stories who don't

actually read encourage your kids to

read beyond the headline check teach

children quick and easy ways to check

the reliability of information like

considering the source doing a search to

double-check the author's credibility

seeing if the information is available

on reputable sites and using credible

fact-checking websites to get more


get involved digital literacy is about

participation teach your kids to be

honest vigilant and creative digital

citizens fake news spreads

misinformation and anxiety among

schoolchildren but they are more

literate and resilient than you might

think if we give them the tools to tell

that foundation their digital literacy

will make the Internet a great place for

us all to find out what is going on in

the world



Fake news

News or stories on the internet that are not true. They may be in the form of disinformation or misinformation.


False information that’s created and shared to deliberately cause harm.


Generally used to refer to misleading information created or disseminated without a deliberate intent to cause harm.

Fake news stories use technology and social media to look like proper news sites. Organisations and political groups may target you with ads that look like the news. While hackers use bots, bits of software, to create multiple social media accounts and use those to spread disinformation. This can make a false story seem real, simply because it looks like it has been shared by so many people.

Fake social media posts and accounts help make misinformation viral. Sometimes this is then reported as fact by real journalists. When it becomes the news, the line between fact and fiction becomes blurred.

Fake news presents strong, often prejudiced opinions, as fact. It can also direct these opinions to those most likely to agree to reinforce them. This so-called “echo-chamber” effect is made worse by algorithms, clever bits of software, which encourage you to read material similar to what you are already sharing. Hackers often hack or manipulate these algorithms.

Examples of fake news

It is promoted by hackers, politicians, trolls, ad agencies and even governments, all of whom have a good understanding of how the internet works. This means it comes in many shapes and sizes making it harder to spot. Look out for:

Fake papers (Imposter news sites)

They look like traditional newspapers online but are not – they often showcase images and videos that have been manipulated.


These are posts, articles and videos that you may see in social feeds or websites that use dramatic headlines or claims for free items or results to get as many people to click on the article, i.e. ‘you won’t believe what…’.They may have eye catching images, an emotive or humorous tone to get people’s attention.

Bad ads

Ads that contain scams or false claims.


This refers to a person who uses their skills to gain unauthorised access to systems and networks in order to commit crimes such as identity theft or often holding systems hostage to collect ransom.


Sensationalist headlines designed to get you to spread the story without reading it.


People, often politicians, willing to use fake news stories to gain popular support.


Disinformation that often spreads because of its sensational topic. It could spread through fake news stories, through videos on social media and in different ways. Learn about hoaxes on TikTok.

Satire/comedy sites

They have no intention to cause harm but have the potential to fool people into thinking content is real (examples: Onion or Daily Mash site).


Although not an example of fake news, these are fake profiles, mainly on social media, that are created to spread fake news using automated technology.

Misleading content

Articles or news stories that use fake facts to distort a particular issue or an individual.


These typically are imposter emails, text, or websites that pretend to come from a reputable organisation in order to gain someone’s personal information. Learn more about phishing with advice from ESET.


This is when technology is used to replicate live facial movements of a person in a video and audio to make it seem real. Some of these videos have gone viral where high-profile people like President Barack Obama and Mark Zuckerberg have been impersonated in fake clips.

Sock puppet accounts

These are accounts that use fake online identities to mislead or manipulate public opinion.

How do fake news and misinformation impact children and young people?

Exposure to misinformation can reduce trust in the media more broadly, making it tougher to know what fact or fiction in the future is. When we start to believe that there is the possibility that anything can be fake, it’s easier to discount what is actually true. This presents a real concern about the impact of fake news on our children and young people.

According to the National Literacy Trust Fake News and Critical Literacy Report more than half of 12-15 year-olds go to social media as their regular source of news. And while only a third believe that social media stories are truthful, it is estimated that only 2% of school children have the basic critical literacy skills to tell the difference between real and fake news.

Half of the children asked, admitted being worried about fake news. Teachers surveyed on the matter noted a real increase in issues of anxiety, self-esteem, and a general skewing of world views. Generally, the trust children have in the news, social media interactions, and politicians being reliable sources is weakening.

Some fake stories can have a real impact on the lives of our children. The so-called “Anti-vaxxers” movement, the fake Momo scare, and the recent false news stories around the COVID-19 pandemic are all examples of different ways that fake news preys on our emotions and those of our children.

Children interviewed express a concern that when online they don’t know who to trust, what is real, and which forms of knowledge are true. Nearly all children are now online, but many of them are not emotionally equipped to deal with the challenges of a fake news online culture. We cannot stop our kids using the internet nor should we, it is an incredible resource. It is important then that we teach them some basic rules so they can feel confident in the facts they find online.

Resources document

Share these videos with your child to help them gain a better understanding of fake news

BBC Bitesize | What’s so bad about fake news?

What is bad about fake news?
BBC Bitesize | How does fake news spread?

What causes fake news to spread?

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