ARTICLE / APRIL 2020
How curiosity from a young age can counteract the spread of ‘fake news’
By Caroline Kennard
LONDON, April 3, 2020 – In today’s world, it’s easier to spread misinformation through simple means than ever before. Take the current COVID-19 situation as a prime example of how quickly misinformation can spread. Social media platforms including WhatsApp and Facebook have proven to be a hotbed for the circulation of incorrect information around combatting the virus and rumours that it was started by a failed biological experiment. It is therefore our responsibility, as parents, educators and the wider community, to share reliable, trusted news sources, and encourage children to challenge anything they may consider ‘fake news’, through piquing their curiosity and motivating them to explore current topics, subjects and themes beyond classroom learning.
According to recent research undertaken by Journolink, at least 45% of adults are conscious that they come across deliberate misinformation on a daily basis. In addition to this, a 2019 study from Ofcom found that 87% of 12-15 year olds in the UK had heard the term ‘fake news’, and 50% had admitted to seeing a ‘fake news’ story.
"Encouraging students’ curiosity from an early age is vital in counteracting the deliberate manipulation of facts – as it helps them look beyond headlines and not always take what they read at face value. Therefore, teachers and parents need to make a conscious effort to raise inquisitive and curious young people, as this will help the next generation effectively differentiate between what is factually correct from what is not."
As younger children are naturally more curious learners, enabling them to have the freedom to learn on their own accord can encourage and nurture this spirit of curiosity, allowing young people to bring this with them into later stages of life.
Studies from Wakefield Research have shown that 94% of parents believe that, the more curious children are, the more likely they are to be successful as adults. In addition to this, 97% of parents agree that curious children excel beyond less curious children.
"Two of the top areas where parents believe that children excel over their less curious peers are; learning things quicker (75%) and thinking critically (68%). Thinking critically is vital when it comes differentiating between trustworthy information and misinformation."
It’s important to encourage students to become independent learners and to help them conduct their own research, enabling them to form their own views, identify misinformation and share reliable facts and sources with their peers. Through providing students with trustworthy sources of information, this can help to ensure students can continue to expand their own curiosity through independent thinking.
It’s unlikely that false information will disappear any time soon. However, students, parents and teachers can be effectively prepared to thwart its spread, while informing others how to detect it. Through nurturing young people and educating them on the significance of curiosity, we can use trusted sources, and inspire students to take responsibility for their learning in order to counteract the spread of misinformation.