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Do children have the critical literacy skills to survive and thrive in a digital world?

By Jonathan Douglas, Director of the National Literacy Trust

Today’s children and young people have grown up in a world that revolves around digital technology. Whether children read books on a tablet, play games on a console, use apps on their phone or do their homework on a computer – technology is entrenched in every part of their lives.

Digital technologies can provide children with a wealth of new and exciting ways to learn. But these same technologies can also be problematic if children aren’t equipped with the skills they need to navigate the potential pitfalls of our digital world. One such pitfall that has gained particular notoriety in recent months is fake news.

Children are becoming increasingly more likely to both encounter fake news and fall for it. Research shows that more young people than ever are using digital media as their main source of news and one child in five believes everything they read online is true. Children who can’t question and determine the reliability of the information they find online in this digital age will be hamstrung – at school, at work and in life.

Children need strong critical literacy skills to be able to spot fake news. They are taught these skills at every stage of the national curriculum in England, but is the teaching of these skills up-to-date for a digital age?

This is the question at the heart of a new commission from the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Literacy, convened by the National Literacy Trust. We are thrilled to be working in partnership with First News on the commission, alongside Facebook and The Day.

The Commission on Fake News and the Teaching of Critical Literacy Skills in Schools will, over the next year, look at the impact of fake news on children and young people and how the critical literacy skills they need to identify fake news are taught in schools.

As a first step, the commission wants to find out what students and teachers think about fake news, so we’ve launched three new surveys with the help of First News and The Day, which are open from 13 September – 22 October 2017.

The teacher survey will explore if teachers think fake news is a problem in the classroom and ask how and where they believe critical literacy skills should be taught. The pupil surveys – one for primary school pupils and one for secondary school students – will find out what children and young people think about fake news and see whether they can tell the difference between some real and fake news stories. The pupil surveys have been created in partnership with First News and The Day.

The National Literacy Trust has published some free teaching resources to run along the surveys and to help teachers introduce their students to the subject of fake news in the classroom. All surveys and resources are available from www.literacytrust.org.uk/fakenews.

We hope to gather as many responses from teachers and pupils as possible. Your views will help us ensure that all of today’s children grow up with the critical literacy skills they need to survive and thrive in a digital world.

Take the surveys:

Teachers survey

Primary school survey

Secondary school survey

About the author

Jonathan Douglas is the Director of the National Literacy Trust.

Follow him on twitter: @JDLiteracyTrust