In the digital era, where misinformation and disinformation (MDI) are increasingly prevalent and dangerous, it's essential for parents and educators to equip children with the skills to discern credible information online, particularly on social media platforms. Due to their still-developing brains and analytical skills, kids and teens are particularly vulnerable to MDI, and are often unable to distinguish between ads or engagement-driven algorithms and unbiased news sources.
How to Combat Misinformation and Disinformation: Strategies for Adults and Kids
To combat the dangers of misinformation on social media and elsewhere, parents and educators can use several strategies:
Providing early education in fact vs. fiction. It's crucial to start teaching children the difference between reality and fiction from a young age. This can be done through simple activities like reading fiction and non-fiction books and discussing their content. Asking questions like, "What about this story makes you believe it is real or not real?" helps develop critical thinking skills.
Encouraging healthy skepticism. Teach children to question everything they encounter online before accepting it as fact. This approach helps them develop the critical thinking skills necessary for identifying credible information. It's also important to make children aware that fake news often aims to trigger an emotional response to encourage sharing. Teaching them to recognize when content has ulterior motives can be a key step in preventing the spread of misinformation.
Modeling responsible media literacy. Parents should demonstrate and discuss with their children how to responsibly consume media. This includes analyzing advertisements and discussing their intent, as well as using fact-checking websites to verify information.
Improving digital literacy. Parents should encourage their children to challenge what they see online and engage in regular discussions about their online activities. This includes explaining the difference between news articles and opinion pieces, and stressing the importance of evaluating information from multiple perspectives.
Using fact-checking resources. Fact-checking websites are valuable resources for verifying information. Teaching children how to use these tools effectively can help them discern credible information from false narratives.
Trying reverse image searches to detect fakes. If children doubt the authenticity of an image, they can perform a reverse image search using search engines like Google. This helps them understand where else the image has been used and in what context.
Diversifying educational resources. Find out if your child is receiving high-quality instruction on internet safety topics at school. This can be delivered in a variety of engaging formats for different learning styles, including school assemblies with internet safety expert guest speakers.
Teach Kids About Online Mis- and Disinformation With Net Positive
The mission of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Utah County is to inspire and enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to realize their full potential as productive, caring, and responsible citizens and leaders. We accomplish this by providing evidence-based programs with a focus on those that improve academic engagement, build character, and promote healthy behaviors.
Our Net Positive Program educates K-12 students about digital safety, health, citizenship, and leadership. After participating in our program, students are 97% better prepared to face internet dangers. Contact us to learn more and ask your school to schedule a Net Positive Presentation today!
Internet Matters Ltd. (2023, November 24). Protecting children from fake news - Internet Matters. Internet Matters. https://www.internetmatters.org/issues/fake-news-and-misinformation-advice-hub/protecting-children-from-fake-news/
Peterson, G. (2023, September 9). How can we help young people become more savvy consumers of online information? Those Nerdy Girls. https://thosenerdygirls.org/children-mis-disinformation/
Security.org. (2022, November 4). Misinformation and Disinformation: A Guide for Protecting Yourself. Security.org. https://www.security.org/digital-security/misinformation/