Fake news, what exactly is it?
Fake news, for many perhaps a familiar concept. But what exactly does it entail?
Fake news is fabricated information what is shared, for example through social media, that is intentionally false. This information is spread to influence someone's opinion. This is done in many ways, through text, pictures, but also videos on YouTube or TikTok. Research has shown that young children are easily influenced. They are in the "magical thinking" phase and do not yet have a clear picture of the real world. Not surprisingly, your child may fall for fake news. But it is good to be aware of this as a parent.
'It says so, then it is so, isn't it?'
Children ages 6 to 12 are becoming increasingly interested in media and are already paying attention to news. The older they get, the more curious they become. And then when they read the news, they prefer to do so independently, without parents. Children at this age already spend an average of 2 hours a day on social media, which therefore gives them ample time to come into contact with fake news.
That is why it is important for kids to know what it is. After all, children between the ages of 6 and 8 are unable to realize what is not real.
Fake news prevents children from recognizing the truth. They allow themselves to be driven by emotions and determine from there whether the message is true or false. And once they are convinced of it, they are really convinced of it. As more and more fake news is spread, it is increasingly difficult to distinguish what is real and what is not. Children are losing track. Also, around the age of 9 and up, it becomes increasingly important what friends think. This makes them impressionable. So when they share their opinions about fake news, chances are your child will adopt this and believe in it. All this can eventually make it difficult for children to form correct opinions, even though this is so important for their development.
How do you discuss fake news with your child?
Every age brings new interests and risks, which is why it's good to keep talking to your child. So too about fake news, even though it can be quite difficult to discuss it with your child. Children ages 6 to 12 think very black and white and like to believe only what they want to hear. Usually it is just the opposite of what you as parents have to say. You see this especially in children between the ages of 6 and 8.
To still talk about this important topic, it is good to make them feel that it is not an unpleasant conversation and they are not forced to believe your opinion as parents. Don't give them the idea that you as a parent know better.
First, it is important to help them understand fake news. Give them examples. For example, on a topic your child knows a lot about and is interested in. Young children are quick to share posts on social media to get a lot of likes. This helps them build their image. Discuss that it is not wise to share just anything, even if it is a funny or exciting post. Furthermore, starting a discussion can also help, let them explain why they think it is true. You can also make the conversation interactive and playful.
Below are some tips that can help with this.
Tips for recognizing fake news:
- Regularly discuss with your child what they see online. Have him or her think about who created the post, whether the title is clickbait (a link to an article or page on the Internet that has a title or image that is eye-catching), arouses curiosity and is exaggerated and over-dramatized to the point that as many people as possible will click on it, what platform it is shared on, and/or sources are used. This is how you quickly find out if a post is real or not.
- Get started in a fun way with examples of fake news. Print these out and turn them into a game of sorts. The more you practice with this, the easier it will be for your child to recognize fake news.
Psssstt... don't feel like looking for examples yourself? There are fortunately online quizzes on the Internet about fake news. For example, this one from Kidsweek; https://www.kidsweek.nl/nieuws-quizjes/kun-jij-echt-en-nep-nieuws-uit-elkaar-houden
- Discuss, for example at dinner, what is going on in the world and what news you have read online. If your child then tells a story that looks like fake news, you can discuss this.
- There are many videos made about recognizing fake news in a playful and fun way. Let your child watch them, this can of course also be done together on the couch with a tasty snack! Watch tip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ynZTATbGdnI
- Let your child make up and write their own fake news message. Children between 6 and 8 years old think concrete and in pictures. So for this age you can get started with pen and paper, colors and stickers. By age 9 to 12, they are a little further along and think abstractly, so they can do without pictures. They could just do it in their heads for a while. This way you can show how easy it is to come up with a fake message and share it with the world.
In short, the fact that children are exposed to fake news is unavoidable. Fake news will only become more and more prevalent in the coming years, making it even more difficult to continue to distinguish it from real news. So fortunately, as a parent, you can discuss fake news in a playful and educational way.