New strategy to help young people spot online disinformation launched

21 July 2021, 11:05

A child’s hands on the keys of a laptop keyboard
Laptop stock. Picture: PA

The Government said ‘false or confused information spread online could threaten public safety and undermine our democracy’.

Teachers, library staff, youth workers and carers are to be trained to help young people spot disinformation online as part of a new Government strategy to combat such content.

The Government’s new Online Media Literacy Strategy will see workers taught how to teach others to better understand the online world, including how to critically analyse the content they consume.

The scheme is part of wider Government efforts to improve media literacy in the UK and to help children better navigate the internet safely.

According to research by the National Literacy Trust, some 2% of children have the critical thinking skills needed to spot disinformation online.

That follows concerns over an increase in false claims and harmful content appearing online during the coronavirus pandemic, including falsehoods about Covid-19 treatment, vaccine safety and conspiracy theories about links to 5G.

Launching the strategy at Battersea Library in South London on Wednesday, minister for digital and culture Caroline Dinenage said: “False or confused information spread online could threaten public safety and undermine our democracy.

“We are legislating to make tech platforms more accountable for this, but people still need the right skills to distinguish between fact and fiction online.

“Through the Media Literacy Strategy, we will channel the efforts of dedicated UK organisations and bring the fight to fake news by making the young, vulnerable and wider online community more resistant and resilient to it.”

The scheme includes a plan to spend £340,000 in the first year and an Online Media Literacy Taskforce is to be created, made up of tech platforms, civil society and academics to find ways of improving media literacy.

Vicki Shotbolt, founder and chief executive of online safety site Parent Zone, said the strategy was an important step in better protecting young people online.

“In a world where school, social, work and family life is increasingly lived online, having the right skills and knowledge is vital to ensure all parents and children are able to explore everything the online world has to offer confidently and safely,” she said.

“The Media Literacy Strategy is an ideal opportunity to ensure people of all generations and backgrounds are supported to thrive online, and we look forward to continuing to work with the Government to build on the progress made so far with this important initiative.”

By Press Association