Just two percent of kids and teens have the literacy skills needed to tell if a news story is real or fake, according to the report compiled by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Literacy and the National Literacy Trust.
The ability to spot fake news appears to decline as kids get older, as when 2,220 children aged eight to 16 were asked to identify which of six news stories were fake and which were real, just 3.1 percent of primary pupils and 0.6 percent of secondary students were able to identify all correctly.
“It makes me not trust the news as much, making me not want to read more because I don’t, I can’t trust it, as such, and it’s quite off-putting because you don’t just know,” said one Year 9 pupil who was involved in the study.
Children who tend to struggle the most with literacy, such as boys and those from disadvantaged backgrounds, were also found to be the least likely to be able to spot fake news and almost two-thirds of teachers (60.9%) believe fake news is harming children’s wellbeing by increasing levels of anxiety, damaging self-esteem and skewing their world view.
Parents can play a crucial role in helping their children develop the necessary critical skills, as the report found that children are most likely to talk to their family (29.9 percent) about fake news and least likely to speak to their teachers (6.4 percent). Some of the young people said this was because they felt more freedom at home to express their opinion and not be judged or mocked by their peers.
One Year 10 pupil said: “It’s easier to speak to my parents about what I think and what my views [are] than in school because I feel like it’s hard to have an opinion here in school without getting judged. Like if you have a certain political view or you think, you have a certain opinion or view on something, that you’ll get picked on, people just make fun of you.”
So what can you do to help your child tell if a story is fake?
The National Literacy Trust advises talking to your child about the news, as doing so will help them learn to question it and work out for themselves if they trust it. Here are some simple steps to help you with these conversations:
STOP - Heard a news story you’re not sure about? Before you decide to believe it, or share it with anyone, take a minute to stop and think about it.
QUESTION - How does the story make you feel? Why? What do you think the journalist wants you to believe?
CHECK - Who wrote the news story? Do you recognise the news company who published it? Is the story reported by any other news companies? Does it quote experts or use official sources of information? If you’re not sure about if the facts in a news story are true, you can use websites such as fullfact.org to check.
DECIDE - If you’ve checked and you think it looks like a true story, decide whether you want to share it. If you do, how will you share it and with who?