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Home » Child’s play: Kids lapping up social media and fake news

Child’s play: Kids lapping up social media and fake news

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It’s not just adults and teenagers who like being bored to death and lied to by social media – children are also increasingly using the technology to pass the time, a study has revealed.

According to everyone’s favourite media regulator, Ofcom, 50% of the UK’s 11 to 12-year-olds have profiles on social media, even though most of the networks are only available to those aged over 13.

Still, Ofcom’s report, Children’s and Parents’ Media Use and Attitudes, does show that around half of 12-15s have an interest in the news, which is good, isn’t it? I mean from a social concern perspective, not just for people like me that (sort of) write it.

And, apparently, kids are quite savvy about Donald Trump’s bête noire (one of them, anyway) ‘fake news’, with nearly half agreeing that it is difficult to discern whether or not an online story is true. Many say they have adopted strategies to decide on a story’s factuality – so, fingers crossed, we won’t end up with too many youngsters growing up believing that mass shootings are performed by actors, or that Barrack Obama was born in Soviet Russia.

Ofcom’s head of children’s research, Emily Keaney, said: ‘It’s reassuring that almost all children now say that they have strategies for checking whether a social media news story is true or false. There may be two reasons behind this: lower trust in news shared through social media, but the digital generation are also becoming savvy online.’

And it’s not just the very young who are going online – it’s also the very, very young. The report shows that 1% of children aged 3-4 have a smartphone, for some reason; while 53% spend nearly eight hours a week online. Can you imagine how bored these kids are going to be of the internet by the time they’re 18?

All this social media activity, YouTubing, fake news analysis and general online action has alarmed children’s charity the NSPCC, which said: ‘Social networks are clearly turning a blind eye when it comes to children under 13 signing up for their services. For too long sites like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat have failed to protect children on their platforms and government urgently needs to step in.’

Here’s the report, which features all sorts of details I haven’t covered. It’s really good but, at nearly 300 pages, it might take you a while to get through.


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