Media literacy

Do children trust the Internet? Kids and Media Literacy, Kids and Alexa – SheKnows

There’s a lot of anxiety about kids and technology these days, and while parents can do things like limit screen time, they can’t completely pull their kids out of the 21st century. Whether we like it or not, kids will be able to grow up relying on highly advanced computers in their pockets to do everything from mapping their commute home to keeping track of shopping lists and solving complex math equations. But that doesn’t mean we inevitably breed small drones that can’t think for themselves. A new study has actually found that kids don’t trust the internet as much as you might think.

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Textually entitled “Who Do I Believe?: Children’s Epistemic Trust in Internet, Teacher and Peer Informants”, recently published in The Journal of Cognitive Development, the study gave the children conflicting information. Their teachers told them one thing and the Internet told them another. The researchers found that children aged five to eight overwhelmingly trusted their teachers. Adults, on the other hand, were more likely to trust the internet – yes, including good old Alexa.

Although the study was done in China, Canadian researchers found similar things. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, which reported on the Chinese study, also spoke with Matthew Johnson, director of education for Media Smarts.

“Children see teachers as just as important a source of information and guidance in our age of information overload as they did when information was scarce,” he told CBC. Johnson also found that kids are likely to turn to a teacher for help researching and checking things online.

But that doesn’t mean we’re raising a generation that will be immune to deepfakes and election tampering via Facebook. The study authors point to the fact that the adults surveyed were more likely to trust the internet than a teacher; they list a number of possible reasons, including seeing the internet as more reliable than just a fallible human. But the authors also posit that kids might just not understand how vast the internet is and how it can hold the answer to almost any question.

In other words, the researchers predict that children will lose their Internet skepticism as they age, just as they will inevitably become more dependent on technology and the Internet. If we want to make sure they don’t put everything their belief in technology, parents and teachers will also need to step in to teach media literacy.

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