Exploring critical thinking online

18 Jan 2017 Becca Cawthorne

This Safer Internet Day we are helping to build key digital skills for a digital generation; and critical thinking is at the heart of this. 

Why is critical thinking important?

Children and young people need to be able to evaluate online content and contact, and recognise how the content they are exposed to and the people they interact with can affect their own behaviour, emotions and beliefs.

This can help develop their resilience to many varied pressures and risks online, from the influence of advertising and celebrity culture on their self-esteem and body image, to exposure to propaganda, fake news and even extremist content.

This digital skill is essential now and will become even more important as new issues emerge and technology continues to develop. In our image-driven digital culture, children need to critically evaluate even the most immersive and convincing content, whether that’s high quality images, videos or livestreams.

The power and influence of images online

This Safer Internet Day the UK Safer Internet Centre is exploring the power and influence of images in children and young people’s lives.

Although for many young people the role of images and videos in their digital lives is a very positive one, it is important that children know that seeing is not always believing when it comes to what they see on the internet.

Through our Education Packs, SID TV films and youth photo campaign we are encouraging young people to be critical thinkers with the digital imagery they come across online.

Critical thinking checklist

When looking at images or information online there are three important questions young people should ask about any piece of information, whether that be written or image based:

  • Who? Who posted the image? Were they reliable and what other content do they usually post? Are they coming from a particular perspective?
  • What? What did they say about the image? Could the image have been edited or show a limited perspective?
  • Why? Why did they post it? How did they want you to feel, or what did they want you to do?

Develop children’s critical thinking this Safer Internet Day

From our Safer Internet Day resources to Childnet’s Trust Me resource, there are a range of ways you can develop children’s critical thinking.

One exciting project is our youth photo campaign which has two briefs exploring the role of critical thinking in relation to images online. ‘Seeing is not always believing’ and ‘Look outside the frame’ both challenge young people to create images that show how things may not always be as they seem when it comes to digital imagery.

For this photography brief, young people were asked to create an image which shows how the images we see online can be misunderstood. It shows how a confusing image might cause others to jump to the wrong conclusions about the people in the photo, or those who shared it. By creating these images young people started to see how not everything online is true.

This photography brief asked young people to create an image that shows how things we see online may not always be what they seem. It was designed to show that when a photo is taken someone makes a choice about what other people get to see, and what information gets left out. Those decisions might affect how other people interpret the photo.

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