How to help children spot fake news


CHILDREN today are learning how to live, work, learn, contribute, and prosper in a digital society as they become more digitally literate and this exposes them to a lot of content whether fact or fiction.

For an adult, the advice on how to spot fake news would be obvious, but for kids, it can be tricky.

Misinformation and disinformation among parents, caregivers and educators can have a negative effect on children, even if the children themselves are not directly exposed to it, says UNICEF in its August 2021 report titled: “Digital misinformation/disinformation and children.”

The report added that the circulation of mis/disinformation has real-world, harmful consequences, such as violence against ethnic minorities or victimization of children and young people by spreading manipulated images that stereotype or discredit them.

Majority of adults believe that digital literacy encompasses more  than just being able to use mobile devices, it is crucial for kids to analyze and filter the information they find online.

The criteria for comprehending the novel methods in which we receive and distribute information change as technology does and knowing how to identify fake news is one of those methods.

The FactCheckHub recently published a report about how YouTube content creators use AI to spread science disinformation among children which an investigation by the BBC’s global disinformation team revealed.

Because children are socialized to believe what adults say from a very early age, gaining digital literacy can be challenging for them. Without ever being instructed on where to look or how to conduct research, students are frequently told to undertake research in school for assignments or projects.

Social media impacts these young ones throughout their adolescent years, and since friends frequently have a far greater power than parental or school authorities, it is important to understand how false information can spread quickly to them.


1. Fake news awareness

Informing your child or ward that fake news does exist is the first step in assisting them to recognize it. Even though it seems so obvious, many kids might not be aware that what they read might not be accurate. Informing kids that people spread falsehoods online is the first step because kids have a tendency to be more trusting and innocent than adults. Digital literacy education may also help the children stay informed trends in the society. Here are 10 things to know about digital literacy for kids, as curated by UNICEF.


2. Encourage your child to be inquisitive

Encourage your kids to question the veracity of content they read or watch online. Teach children to be critical consumers of the social media and mass media content they consume by helping them to comprehend the why, how, and what has been communicated with them.

Encourage inquiries like, How did you like the information? How was it communicated to you? Who is the author of the content? Who might gain or lose from it? How come they succeeded? Is this stuff being paid for by anyone? What is the news omitting to say? Is a portion of the narrative missing? Do you think the information you’re reading is accurate?

A boy and girl using laptop on a sofa. PHOTO CREDITS:
A boy and girl using laptop on a sofa. PHOTO CREDITS:

3. Prompt them to use different sources of information

It is crucial that kids are exposed to and engage with a variety of information sources, both traditional and digital. This is where libraries, schools, and books come in.

Look for trustworthy information provided in straightforward words from news sources that are expressly targeted towards children, such as educational newspapers and magazines.


4. Block websites and apps that produce false news

When you noticed that a specific website or app on your children’s device starts producing or publishing inaccurate or deceptive content on a regular basis, check the app settings. The website or app’s settings should be restricted by parents or guardians.


5. Imbibe the practice of “think before you share”

In addition to being content consumers, we also produce content. Don’t provide any information if you have any reason to believe that it may be incorrect, misleading, or damaging in some other manner.

If you believe that your child is prepared to use social media and start posting content, be sure to first establish clear guidelines and expectations. Encourage your friends and family to consider the information they provide, and feel free to hold people accountable if they spread false information.


6. Play while you learn

“Play is key to children’s learning, development, confidence and well-being,” says the Australian Parenting website:

“It is a really important tool for children’s cognitive, physical, social and emotional development and also their imagination and creativity,” Ferdousi Khanom, an education and child development expert from the BRAC Institute of Educational Development at BRAC University told UNICEF.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics: “Play is fundamentally important for learning 21st century skills, such as problem solving, collaboration, and creativity.” This can also include ability to spotting fake news.

Playing fun trivia games such as the Get It Right co-developed by the FactCheckHub, ICIR and the Digital Public Square would keep them abreast of new skills in spotting fake news while gaining new knowledge. Play the game by clicking HERE.

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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