News, fake news and digital literacy from a family perspective

In a pandemic, reliable information is crucial. How can parents help children to navigate the news?  London CLC’s Peter Lillington has some pointers.

In these troubling times, understanding what information is reliable and which sources can be trusted may, tragically, be quite literally  a matter of life and death for some people. Should we trust what our friends have forwarded to us, can we believe what we see in a picture on social media and is every source of information equal? 

A survey published this week reports increased trust among adults in scientists and health experts, but also that 51% of adults have seen misinformation or fake news, echoing ongoing work by the media regulator Ofcom.

What sort of person spreads misinformation? BBC trending blog has an interesting characterisation of seven types of people, from jokers, scammers and politicians to conspiracy theorists and celebrities. 

Being discerning in how we navigate through the daily waves of data and news without upsetting our mental and emotional equilibrium, or sticking our heads in the sand, leads to the notion of ‘information hygiene’. For parents it can make for tricky choices: how to talk with a child about the non-stop shocking and disturbing reports without scaring them or creating unnecessary anxiety. As the LSE’s Sonia Livingstone says, children are often aware of more than we might realise:

“Research on child news audiences has long shown that children are observant of and interested in the troubles of the world. Certainly, even if they don’t mention it, they notice when their parents are worried. My first suggestion for families is: talk together about what’s happening. It’s especially vital to recognise children’s concerns – even young children want to understand, and to contribute where they can.”

Fortunately there are some helpful materials around to help and we want to highlight a few. At the end of the post we’ve also highlighted some of the interesting materials aimed at adults.

Families and teachers thinking about home learning

ParentInfo: Three tips for starting a difficult conversation with your child

ParentInfo: How to help children spot fake news

NewsWise National Literacy Trust: Top tips for talking with your child about the news

LSE: Coronavirus and #fakenews: what should families do?

Teaching resources made by ACT Teachers on Misinformation, Malinformation and Disinformation

Our friends at the Guardian Foundation, as part of the NewsWise project that we’ve mentioned before, have created some new great resources for families including activities for children: NewsWise for families: looking out for fake news. Also check out NewsWise for families: making your own news, the Happy News Challenge and the Funny news (but not necessarily true!)  – random generator

For children

Newsround: Fake news: What is it? And how can you spot it?

Newsround: Happy News

Bite Size Fact or fake campaign

We’ve written and presented about these issues many times and we look forward to running our News Project with schools in what we hope will be happier times next academic year.As part of our Tech Pathways London project we have a brief on critical literacy for older students.

For adults

Ofcom CV-19 stats

We’re part of the Making Sense of the Media network organised by Ofcom and although everyone may feel overwhelmed by statistics at the moment, this weekly service offers a valuable insight into the nation’s news consumption habits.

For adults, and adults guiding children, there is a very useful roundup of resources at Ofcom’s Cutting through the Covid-19 Confusion: the weekly reports are mentioned in the leading item

Want to find out more?

ACT are running a 3-part CPD course which will run from the 20th May – 17th June. The course is designed to counter misinformation about Covid-19 and focuses on media literacy education through citizenship. Find out more and register here

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