Kids are better at identifying fake news than adults, but they’re breaking Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat’s terms in the process
If my mother isn’t asking me to post on Facebook for her, she’s there telling me I need to drink a concoction of herbal medicines to avoid getting sick – right before rushing off to the likes of Holland and Barrett to buy the whole store. While Facebook may be to blame for my mother’s love of homoeopathy, it’s interesting to see that an entire generation of tech-savvy kids can see through fake news and poor research in a way their seniors just can’t.
In a new report from Ofcom released today, it’s been revealed that underage kids are more than aware of fake news and are so clued up on tech they’re accessing social networking platforms when they shouldn’t be. Major social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat require users to be 13-years old to sign up for an account, however, it appears they seem quite lax about enforcing those rules.
However, in one silver lining to social networks’ laidback attitude to age restrictions, kids are seemingly becoming more aware of the concept of fake news. In an era where fake news is rife, it’s encouraging to see that today’s kids are becoming aware of the distinction between fake news and reliable news. Ofcom said that children were increasingly getting their news from social media, but only 32% of kids on platforms believed what they read was truthful.
The report found that 51% of 12-year olds, 46% of 11-year olds and 28% of 10-year olds have a social media account. Even worse, awareness among parents is very low with eight in ten parents being unaware that there’s even an age restriction on Snapchat or Instagram. Of parents of children aged between five and 15, four in ten of them said they’d allow their child to use social media sites under the minimum age stipulated by each network.
“Social networks are clearly turning a blind eye when it comes to children under 13 signing up for their services,” said Andy Burrows, NSPCC’s Associate Head of Child Safety Online in a press statement. “For too long sites like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat have failed to protect children on their platforms and government urgently needs to step in.”
Ofcom’s report also highlighted the frightening state of live video sharing among kids. It revealed that one in ten children had shared live videos on social media, with platforms like Instagram allowing users to broadcast to strangers.
In reality, there’s really nothing to prevent kids from signing up for social networks using a different date of birth. However, a new European data protection law is due to come into force next year. This law will require parents to give their consent before children under the age of 13 in the UK are allowed to create a social media profile.
A Stanford University study also revealed that fake news websites received 100 million visits during the month of the 2016 US election. So, even if they shouldn’t be accessing Facebook at all, it’s very encouraging to see that the majority of kids understand that a glut of news shared on social media isn’t to be believed.