Only two per cent of children can tell if news is real or fake

Only two per cent of children and young people have the critical literacy skills they need to tell if a news story is real or fake, according to a new report.

The report from the Commission on Fake News and the Teaching of Critical Literacy Skills in Schools, gathered evidence over the past year on the impact of fake news on children and young people, and the skills children need to be able to spot it.

The commission is run by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Literacy and the National Literacy Trust, in partnership with Facebook, First News and The Day.

Half of children are worried about not being able to spot fake news and almost two-thirds of teachers believe fake news is harming children’s well-being by increasing levels of anxiety, damaging self-esteem and skewing their world view.

Almost half of older children get their news from websites and social media, yet only a quarter of these children actually trust online sources of news. Regulated sources of news, such as TV and radio, remain the most used and the most trusted by children and young people in the UK.

Half of teachers feel that the national curriculum does not equip children with the literacy skills they need to identify fake news and a third feel the critical literacy skills taught in schools are not transferable to the real world. In response to the commission’s recommendations, the National Literacy Trust has published a series of fake news and critical literacy resources and posters for teachers, school librarians and children, as well as a top tips guide for parents.

Jonathan Douglas, director of the National Literacy Trust, said: “The way young people experience news is changing rapidly. This transformation, which has been driven in particular by the rise of digital and social media, has given young people exciting new opportunities to become creators, curators and communicators of news – not just consumers of it.

“However, with these new opportunities come new threats. We have uncovered a dangerous lack in the literacy skills that children and young people require to navigate our digital world and identify fake news. If we don’t take urgent action to bring the teaching of critical literacy skills into the 21st century and to engage children actively with news, we risk damaging young people’s democratic futures, along with the well-being of an entire generation.”

The commission has launched a Children’s Charter on Fake News, encompassing five areas of change designed to give young people the requisite skills and knowledge to confidently navigate, analyse and assess the validity of the news they find online, in print and on TV and radio.

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