Helping young people become critical thinkers online

24 May 2016 UK SIC

On 19th May, partners in the UK Safer Internet Centre, Childnet, launched Trust Me, a new resource to help young people become critical thinkers online.

Launched at an event held in partnership with the LGfL Safeguarding Board, the event was an opportunity for educators to explore the teaching packs and resources.  This included being guided through the mocked-up examples of websites and social media posts for young people, along with the practical activities and discussion guides.

An expert panel held a discussion about the importance of critical thinking around online content and the need for schools to actively engage with their pupils on this topic.

UK Safer Internet Centre Director, David Wright, outlined some of the obligations teachers are required to meet through the Prevent Strategy including establishing appropriate levels of filtering and monitoring.  To help schools comprehend what should be considered as ‘appropriate’ filtering and monitoring David shared the links to the UK Safer Internet Centre’s Appropriate Filtering and Monitoring resources

The panel also included young people, Tom and Ayan, who spoke about their own experiences around content they see online and how they and their peers made judgements about what they see on websites and social media.

When asked what age young people should be learning critical thinking skills both young people on the panel said primary age.  Ayan added that at primary children are less conscious about what their teacher will think and so can be more honest.

When asked how do you decide what to trust on social media Tom said it’s about putting the information in context.  Asking questions like who said it, is it someone I know? Are they trustworthy?  Ayan added that just because something is trending it doesn’t mean it’s what everyone believes, it’s important to do your own research.

Childnet Education Manager, Gareth Cort, closed the panel discussion by providing a helpful technique that young people can use to be critical thinkers online.  He emphasised the need for contextualisation, stressing that the way we decide what to trust will be different depending on the context of the information for example a personal message will be different to the information we see on social media or on a search engine, however he advised young people to ask these questions:

  • Who said it?
  • What did they say?
  • Why did they say it?

This is a good starting point to think about what the content you are seeing means.

Trust Me is available to download for free and includes lesson plans for primary and secondary school teachers.  To find out more visit:

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