Expert claims that fake news is a threat to children

Children’s exposure to fake news is a growing problem that requires action by parents and teachers, an expert has claimed.

Dr Linda Papadopoulos of Internet Matters, a charity focused on teaching children and parents healthy internet use believes it is important to foster conversation around how we consume media.

She said: “It’s increasingly hard to spot fake news stories in today’s world.

“Even reputable news organisations have found themselves reporting on false stories in recent times.”

The solution Papadopoulos points to is fostering good media literacy across the population and in children.

She breaks this down into a set of six rules for how to discuss the topic with children, but their can be applied by anyone to improve the media literacy.

  1. Examine where information comes from, both in the media you consume and when discussing with others.
  2. Understand that a frequently repeated statement is not necessarily true.
  3. Illustrate the dangers of misinformation in history, where hindsight and historical records enables us to identify propaganda and rumours that were long taken for fact. In more recent history this can be illustrated by pointing to anti-intellectual movements in the current day, such as flat-earthers.
  4. Foster discussion about the news. Papadopoulos states that the best way to challenge fake news is by questioning it with people that you trust among your family and friends.
  5. If you’ve shared misinformation, put it right. Normalising this behaviour improves the news environment around us.
  6. Report and flag fake news when you find it. Every social media site provides the tools to request fake news be removed and this limits the number of people that it can be shared with.

Fake news appears to be a growing issue that undermines people’s ability to trust other sources of information.

A 2019 survey indicated that 37% of the UK population trusted online news sites less than in the year before.

Fake news is not the only area of internet safety that Internet Matters focuses on.

They also provide specialised resources and advice for navigating issues such as grooming, radicalisation and sexting.

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