At the extended family lunch, the 11-year-old girl decided she would share an interesting news story she had happened across.

‘There was 14 of us there, and they all laughed at me and my grandpa said it was ludicrous and belittled me,’ the girl recalls. ‘I felt so small.’

This was the girl’s upsetting introduction to the confusing world of ‘fake news’, related in the first national report on how 8-to-16-year-olds consume and interact with news and media.

The report, which surveyed 1000 Australian young people, reveals a concerning lack of awareness about fake news, leading to calls from young Australians to make media literacy classes compulsory.

The report finds that 43 per cent of children and 23 per cent of teens don’t know if they can tell a fake news story from a real one.

And 54 per cent of young people hardly ever, or never, check whether news stories on the internet are true.

Only one in five had school lessons in the past year to help them work out whether news stories could be trusted.

The report was released to coincide with the recent MediaMe conference on media literacy for young people.

The conference in Sydney, attended by young delegates from around Australia, was hosted by Crinkling News, the national newspaper for kids. (You can watch the video about the conference below).

Young people at the MediaMe conference made a strong call in a National Action Plan for the teaching of media skills, which they said was a life skill and should be a compulsory and regular subject at school.

The national study is the work of Western Sydney University, Queensland University of Technology and Crinkling News (read our recent post about the newspaper here).

Based on the findings, the report identifies the need to more effectively educate young Australians about fake news. The authors call for high quality and engaging educational materials for parents and guardians, teachers and young people.

Dr Tanya Notley, a lead author of the report, says the survey results showed that young Australians are consuming a lot of news.

‘One third of children and two thirds of teens often or sometimes get news from social media sites,’ says Dr Notley, from Western Sydney University.

‘However, many are not critiquing this news they get online or they don’t know how to. Often they are not considering the source of the news story and they are not making any efforts to verify the story.’

‘We need to consider what impact this does and might have on young people’s capacity to participate in society as well-informed citizens,’  says co-lead author, Associate Professor Michael Dezuanni from the Queensland University of Technology.

Saffron Howden, editor of Crinkling News, says the report underpins the need for a national focus on media literacy for children.

‘This report represents an opportunity to improve young people’s understanding of how media works, to develop their critical thinking skills, and to teach them how to filter information to identify what’s accurate,’ says Ms Howden.

The report also finds:

  • Young Australians value the news, but most think news organisations don’t understand young people’s lives and don’t cover the issues that matter to them.
  • Trust in media organisations is low, and perceptions of bias are high.
  • News upsets and scares young Australians. While most can talk this through with their family and teachers, a significant number cannot.

Video courtesy of Crinkling News.

Like this post? Please share using the buttons on this page.

You can also subscribe to The Parents’ Website and get regular updates straight to your inbox.

Posted by Independent Schools Victoria