Truth, lies and the internet
New research finds that 48 per cent of teachers have argued about conspiracy theories with their pupils. One in twenty say this happens on a weekly basis.
In their report, Truth, Lies and the Internet: A report into young people’s digital fluency, Demos warns that ‘digital natives’ (12-18 year olds) are often confident, but not competent internet users.
One in four young people do not make any checks at all when visiting a new website. Less than 1 in 10 ask who made the site and why.
One third of young people believe that information generated by search engines must be true and 15% base their opinions of a website on how it looks and feels to use.
Demos calls for a greater focus on young people’s ‘digital fluency’ to combat the growth of conspiracy theories amongst school-age children. Digital fluency is the ability to find and evaluate information online. It combines ‘old’ critical thinking skills, such as source verification, with ‘new’ knowledge about how the digital world works, such as understanding search engines.
The report argues that the amount of material available at the click of a mouse can be both liberating and asphyxiating. Although there are more e-books, trustworthy journalism, niche expertise and accurate facts at our fingertips than ever before, there is an equal measure of mistakes, half-truths, propaganda, misinformation and general nonsense. Knowing how to discriminate between them is fundamental to education.
Jamie Bartlett, author of the report said: “We can't teach children what to think, but we must ensure that young people can make careful, skeptical and savvy judgments about the internet content they encounter.”