Keeping Young People Safe Online

Misinformation and Fake News

Misinformation is nothing new. Newspapers have been accused of printing fake news stories since they began. But now misinformation can reach a global audience within seconds via social media platforms. Misinformation is the deliberate development of stories and events which are not factually correct to further an ideology, sow confusion or delegitimise an individual or cause. Some information may be based on something that was true but has since been exaggerated and changed so that it no longer accurately represents the truth. Without factually correct information guiding their decision-making processes, children and young people are likely to form incorrect opinions and views of the world around them.

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What you need to know

To help a young person decipher what is factual information and what is not, and mitigate against the risks of believing fake news or misinformation, parents and safeguarding professionals can help protect them by teaching how to…
  • Check the publisher: How or where did the story come from? What other information have they published and what do you know about the news outlet?
  • Check the sources: Who does the news story quote? If they mention experts or other news outlets, you can search online to see if they check out.
  • Check who shared it: Do you know the person? Are they qualified to give an expert opinion? Have they shared anything else trustworthy?
  • Check the date: When was the article published? It might be old or reposted.
  • Pay attention to images: They may not be recent and may have been reused (you can use reverse image search to find out).
  • Be aware of the influence of social media influencers: Children and young people often look up to and follow social media influencers. It’s important to educate them about the potential for influencers to spread misinformation or engage in deceptive practices. Encourage critical thinking and fact-checking when it comes to the information shared by influencers.

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If you are under 18, click the blue button below to visit the Online Safety Hub micro-site for children and young people.