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Teach kids about hate and misinformation on the Internet

Teach kids about hate and misinformation on the Internet

The Internet is unimaginably rich in information and resources. Unfortunately, some of the information people post is designed to cultivate hate or spread misinformation.

You can help your kids develop critical-thinking skills to judge the accuracy of online information.

Tips for helping kids learn to spot misinformation

  • Start when your children are young. Even preschool students are now using the Internet to look up information, so it's important to teach kids early to distinguish fact from opinion and how to recognize bias, propaganda, and stereotyping.

  • Ask your kids about information that they find online. For example, what is the purpose of the site they are looking at? To entertain? To sell? Does the site contain contact information for the author or an "About Us" section?

  • Is the site sponsored by a certain company, a person, or is it a public conversation? Is the Internet the best place to find the information you're searching for?

  • Make sure your kids check the online information they collect against other sources. Refer to other websites or media-such as newspapers, magazines, and books-to verify the information. Encourage them to check with you. Take them to the library. This will give them access to alternative sources of information.

Hate on the Internet

There are many forms of hate on the Internet, ranging from extreme racist sites to the cruel satire found on many popular kids' websites.

Some impressionable kids move from sites where people are mocked for their personal appearance to sites where minorities and homosexuals are attacked.

White supremacist and hate groups have turned to the Internet to target young people for recruitment. Hate promoters look for vulnerable youth who can be brought into their community through social networking, private chat rooms, and email, far away from the public eye.

These groups also use hateful music to entice young people to their cause. When kids surf the Net for music, they can easily come across sites that sell hate music or even make it available for free.

Some hate sites have areas specifically designed for young children that give the appearance of being legitimate by offering harmless activities, crafts, and links to respected kids' sites.

The purpose of a hate site isn't always readily apparent. For example, at first glance, "martinlutherking.org" appears to be a tribute to the American civil rights leader. In fact, it is a hate site created by a white supremacist organization.

Tips to help your kids avoid hateful content on the Internet

Parents must protect young children from hateful content on the Internet. You must also teach older kids how to think critically about online content and what to look for when identifying if a website might be a hate website. Here are some things you can do to help your kids avoid hateful content online:

TipTip: For more specific information about how to protect your kids online at certain stages, see Age-based guidelines for kids' Internet use.

  • Educate your kids about online hate Young people will better be able to recognize and avoid hateful content if they are taught to understand the strategies that hate promoters use and about the history of racism. Help young people to identify hateful content and symbols on websites-for example, swastikas, derogatory references to race or sexual orientation, and cartoon depictions of various ethnic and racial groups. Find additional online etiquette tips for chat rooms, forums, email messages, and more.

  • Investigate filtering software. While filters can help block some violent and hateful content, these technologies are not the complete answer. Online hate often crops up in subtle forms that are not always identified by filters.

  • Practice good online etiquette. Encourage your children to be kind and respectful in what they write online and not to encourage hateful, mean, or harassing messages to others. Remind them that nothing online is totally private.