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Children lack literacy skills to spot fake news – report

By Alexander Britton, Press Association

Only one in 50 school pupils has the critical literacy skills to tell if a news story is real or fake, a report has suggested.

Nearly half of children say they are worried about not being able to spot fake news, while six in 10 teachers believe fake news increases anxiety levels among children, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Literacy report found.

Chairwoman Lucy Powell said there was a "dangerous lack in the literacy skills that children and young people require to navigate our digital world and identify fake news", with the report adding lies in the media drive a culture of "fear and uncertainty".

The APPG spent nine months speaking to pupils, teachers and academics to investigate the impact of fake news on children.

It also found that while 43% of older children get their news from websites and social media, only a quarter of children (26.2%) trust online news sources.

Ms Powell added: "This (lacking literacy skills to identify fake news) is causing them to mistake false news for fact, become anxious as they believe misleading stories, and risk exposure to malign agendas.

"The digital landscape is evolving at a tremendous rate but the literacy skills children need to thrive in this world are not keeping pace."

Jonathan Douglas, director of the National Literacy Trust, said: "The way young people experience news is changing rapidly. This transformation, which has been driven in particular by the rise of digital and social media, has given young people exciting new opportunities to become creators, curators and communicators of news - not just consumers of it.

"If we don't take urgent action to bring the teaching of critical literacy skills into the 21st century and to engage children actively with news, we risk damaging young people's democratic futures, along with the well-being of an entire generation."

The report - called Fake News and Critical Literacy - was compiled after surveying 388 primary school pupils, 1,832 secondary students and 414 teachers, holding group discussions with pupils and teachers and inviting written evidence from experts.

Pic by Eyleen Sheil

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