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Teach kids how to identify hate and misinformation on the Internet

Teach kids how to identify hate and misinformation on the Internet

The Internet is rich in information and resources. Unfortunately, some of its content is designed to misinform or cultivate hate.

Early on, help kids develop critical-thinking skills to judge the accuracy and objectivity of online information. Teach them to distinguish fact from opinion and how to recognize bias, propaganda, and stereotyping.

Tips to help kids learn to spot misinformation online

Teach kids to ask critical questions about information that they find online.

  • What is the purpose of the site or story? To entertain? To sell? To inform? To promote a view or belief?

  • Who created the site or wrote the story?

    • Does the site have an "About Us" section? Is the site sponsored by a company, organization, or an individual?

    • Does the site supply information about the author? If it does, what are the author’s credentials? Is the author associated with a reputable organization? If you want to track who owns a website or publishes its material, go to http://www.easywhois.com for details.

  • Is the information accurate?

    • How objective is the source? Is a particular bias evident?

    • Is the information fact or opinion? Can you find other sources that back it up?

    • Is it well written?

  • How does the information compare? Suggest that kids check the information they collect online against other sources. Encourage them to check with you. Refer to reputable websites to verify the information. Take them to the library and check other media such as newspapers, magazines, and books.

  • Is the information current? Look for a date that indicates when it was written or revised.

Hate on the Internet

There are many forms of hate on the Internet and 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.

White supremacist and other hate groups target young people for recruitment. They:

  • Look for vulnerable youth who can be brought into their community through social network sites, private chat rooms, and email.

  • Use music to entice young people to their cause by giving away or selling hate music.

  • Set up areas specifically designed to attract young children that give the appearance of legitimacy by offering harmless activities, crafts, and links to respected kids' sites, but subtly promote hate.

Tips to help kids avoid hateful content online

Educate kids about online hate to help them recognize and avoid hateful content. Teach them how to identify hateful speech, symbols, and other content on websites—for example, swastikas, derogatory references to race or sexual orientation, and cartoon depictions of ethnic, religious, and racial groups.

Use kid-friendly search engines for younger children. These are designed to shield kids from potentially harmful material.

Investigate filtering software, although these technologies are not a complete solution. Online hate often crops up in subtle forms that are not always identified by filters.

And of course, reinforce the importance of responsible online use, encouraging children to be kind and respectful in what they post or send online, including images.