How to help children deal with misinformation

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AFTER teaching children how to spot fake news, it is important to also know how to help them navigate dealing with misinformation and disinformation in this digital age.

With increasing growth of technology and influx of Chat GPT applications, there is still a probability for them to fall for some false and misleading content such as AI-generated images, videos and even news.

The impact of misinformation are largely negative and can exist in various forms, such as phishing scams, cyber bullying, sarcasm, and fake news.

While it can cause adults to be more suspicious and careful in the kind of content they consume, it can have adverse effects on children, which can cause them to be embarrassed, cause anxiety and affect their mental health.

It can also cause them to lose confidence in their facial or body features as there is an influx of individuals using AI to make their photos look perfect in a certain way.

Additionally, cyber bullying may or may not entail individuals using deepfakes to make fun of how a particular child looks, walk or talk, which can make kids question their physical appearance or biological development.

It is very essential to help them navigate that moment of their lives by helping them deal with the impact of misinformation so that they would understand, recognize and handle such situations if they come across them in future. They would also, in turn, help their friends or schoolmates to overcome the challenge and even form peer groups like the FactCheckHub‘s fact-checking clubs in Nigerian schools.

Below are steps to take to help children become knowledgeable about the information disorder phenomenon and enable them cultivate the culture of fact-checking:

 

Verify and fact-check Information together

After teaching your child or ward how to identify fake news, they are likely to fall for it again as new and different techniques are being employed to disseminate misinformation online, which might be discouraging to them.

Encourage them and let them understand that it is normal to fall victim to misinformation. Give them some time to review the false information and the red flags. Talk about the reasons behind their belief that made them think it was true, and show them the signs that the content was misinformation while teaching them how you would go about verifying the accuracy of the content. Engaging in this exercise with them would enable them to critically access and identify misinformation in future.

For illustration only. PHOTO CREDITS: Pexels.com
For illustration only. PHOTO CREDITS: Pexels.com

 

Teach them to own up to their mistakes

Encourage your child or ward  to accept responsibility for their mistakes if they spread misinformation to others. If they share something on social media, they may respond with a post stating that it was untrue. They could also communicate accurate information while apologizing.

Wherever feasible, they have to remove the false information.

 

Seek and offer support to them

In cases of cyber bullying, physical appearance, and phishing scams, children would need additional support to help them overcome, such as speaking with a counsellor or obtaining assistance from your child’s school. Words of affirmation would also help. It is also important to keep checks on their mental health while keeping tabs on the content they consume constantly to avoid further occurrences.

 

Teach and help them report false and misleading content

Lastly, most social media apps contain guidelines for reporting false and misleading content. While some policies are more stringent than others and will remove such content, others call for more consideration.

It is important to let your child or ward report any false or misleading content they come across. You can either show them how it is being done or guide them during the process.

To report content on Instagram, click the ‘three dots’ icon on the post or profile you want to report and choose ‘False information’ when giving a reason. To report misinformation or fake news on TikTok, click the ‘three dots’ icon on the post or profile you want to report and choose ‘Misinformation’ when giving a reason.

To report misleading video content and channels  on YouTube, click the ‘setting’ icon located at the top right edge of the video or channel and tap ‘Report’; then choose ‘Misinformation’ when giving a reason. Similar steps should be taken when reporting on other social media platforms like Facebook, Threads and X (formerly Twitter) too. For WhatsApp and Telegram, you can report any contact or channel sharing misinformation while also blocking the contact too. Simply click the ‘three dots’ on the top right of the contact or channel and click ‘Report’. Then select any applicable option or ‘Other’ to state the kind of misinformation you’re reporting.

Fact-checker at The FactheckHub | [email protected] | + posts

Seasoned fact-checker and researcher Fatimah Quadri has written numerous fact-checks, explainers, and media literacy pieces for The FactCheckHub in an effort to combat information disorder. She can be reached at sunmibola_q on X or [email protected].

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