Schoolchildren, digital divide and the threat of disinformation

Lie Detectors is a news literacy programme for schoolchildren aged 10-15. Its main goal is to develop in young people the critical thinking skills they need to understand news media, fight disinformation and make informed choices. More information about their work can be found here.

Its most recent report Tackling Disinformation Face to Face: Journalists’ Findings from the Classroom presents data collected during activities with more than 8,500 schoolchildren in Belgium, Germany and Austria, as well as 120 journalists and 260 teachers. It reveals that one of the most important things to help children fight disinformation is to understand how they engage with the digital platforms, as well as the divide that exists between teachers and pupils in terms of online preferences. For example, even though both teachers and pupils are active on social media, “schoolchildren are more likely to use platforms with visual content than their teachers and to venture onto new platforms such as TikTok”, the report says. Whereas teachers are more likely to use Facebook and Twitter, young people are more interested in Instagram and Snapchat. This poses a question: are teachers ready to deal with multimodal communication, where text, image, sound and other modes are combined to create meaning? They definitely need training in the basics of semiotics and multimodality to tackle this issue.

Another interesting finding is that most teachers understand the importance of media literacy and are willing to implement this kind of learning practice. However, they are often ill-equipped to teach, and for this reason less than half of them had ever discussed the topic with their students.

The full report is available here.

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