Parents ‘concerned about fake news but few showing children how to spot it’

Child using a phone
Child using a phone (PA Archive)
9:19am, Tue 10 Nov 2020
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Three quarters of parents are concerned about their children being exposed to fake news but few are actually having a conversation about how to spot it, according to a survey.

More than a third (36%) of the 2,006 UK parents who took part in the research commissioned by online safety group Internet Matters said they are most worried about their children seeing misinformation about coronavirus.

This ranked higher than any other internet worries, such as hoax challenges (33%), terrorism (33%) and false medical and health-related advice, such as a cure for cancer (28%).

Despite this, only 16% have sat down with their children to discuss how to look out for fake news online.

We always advise parents to have regular conversations with their children about online safety issues

Professor William Watkin, a fake news expert from Brunel University, said: “You can’t shield your child from the misinformation that is out there but you can teach them how to read it, respond to it, and, if necessary, report it.

“The everchanging digital landscape is making it increasingly hard for parents to keep up.

“But by helping children distinguish between what’s real and what’s fake, you can help them develop critical thinking and digital literacy.”

It comes as Internet Matters launched a new hub with support from Google, providing tips and resources to distinguish between what is real and what is false.

Carolyn Bunting, chief executive of Internet Matters, said: “This research highlights that parents are understandably worried that their children may find it harder to separate fact from fiction, especially in relation to Covid-19.

“It’s why it’s so important to help them make sense of what they see online, encouraging them to think carefully about what they see and hear online.”

She added: “For example, help them check the source of the information and discuss the impact of reposting or sharing false information.

“There are also tech tools on platforms you can use to help limit their news feed and manage what they see.

“We always advise parents to have regular conversations with their children about online safety issues.”

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