Supporting critical thinking and reliability online

Misinformation or ‘Fake news’ is online content that can mislead or provide false information towards a particular topic. Stories can often be fabricated to cause panic or concern and heavily rely on users to critically determine what is trustworthy or not

Best practices for parents and carers

Talk together

Talk regularly with your child about how they use technology and where they go for information online. Discuss who they follow, what types of adverts they see, and what stories they find surprising or suspicious. Listening to your child will give you the best possible idea of how you can support them.

Think before you share

It can be tempting to share surprising or attention-grabbing online content with your child or your family group chats, but make sure to fact-check these links before you do. As it’s come from a parent, some children may believe it without questioning it, and older children may find it difficult or awkward to point out if it is false or misleading. This is another chance to set a good example in how to share information responsibly online.

Check in with your child

False and misleading content online can be upsetting and confusing, e.g. harmful claims that target specific groups, or unhealthy lifestyle tips. Young people may feel powerless when faced with the amount of unreliable content they see. Regularly check-in with your child about their online life and ask them how what they see makes them feel. This is an issue that affects all of us. Reassure your child that you are there to talk about things that upset them and to support them with how they feel.

Seek help and support

Just as we ask young people to talk about what they are unsure of, make sure you do too! Chances are that you’ll find other parents or carers who are trying to figure out how to help their family avoid false information and get the most out of the internet.
Find out how to get more support by visiting Childnet’s ‘Need Help?’ page. You can take steps to support your child online by using features such as making a report on a range of apps, games and services, and using privacy settings on social media.

Best practices for schools and professionals

Discuss critical thinking

Encourage students to think critically about what they see online. Give them the confidence to question information and not believe everything they read no matter how genuine it may appear. Promote fact-checking and show how a bit of investigating can help them navigate the internet in a safer way.

Prevent sharing

Show how damaging ‘Fake news’ can be when it is shared far and wide. Encourage students to think critically before they share a piece of news that could potentially cause harm to others. Develop understanding around responsible sharing and when not to share content that is potentially misleading.


If a child is noticeably upset and reports any harmful material, you can report it to a designated safeguard lead. You can also report it at Report Harmful Content which gives detailed advice on how to report content to well-known online platforms.

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