Navigating the online world can be complex, even for adults. Knowing how to process information critically requires a degree of maturity and media literacy, which is still in development for most children.
Without factually correct information guiding their decision-making processes, children and young people can form incorrect opinions and views of the world around them. These falsehoods can also impact their trust in information and the world around them.
While some children may understand and be aware of misinformation, others may share misinformation because it’s ‘fun’, ‘entertaining’ or ‘controversial’.
In some cases, young people may see misinformation, and while they do not believe it, it casts doubt on well-established truths. This can lead them to question things that generations before them took for granted for example, whether the world is flat.
By sharing misinformation, children and young people can indirectly contribute to its spread and encourage their peers to internalise falsehoods commonly repeated online. Visual disinformation is processed quicker than written communications. In some instances, children are targeted with visual disinformation on video sharing platforms.
It has been reported that children as young as 9 years old have viewed COVID-19 related misinformation on TikTok.