News, fake news and digital literacy from a family perspective

In a pandemic, reliable information is crucial. How can parents help children to navigate the news?  London CLC’s Peter Lillington has some pointers.

In these troubling times, understanding what information is reliable and which sources can be trusted may, tragically, be quite literally  a matter of life and death for some people. Should we trust what our friends have forwarded to us, can we believe what we see in a picture on social media and is every source of information equal? 

A survey published this week reports increased trust among adults in scientists and health experts, but also that 51% of adults have seen misinformation or fake news, echoing ongoing work by the media regulator Ofcom.

What sort of person spreads misinformation? BBC trending blog has an interesting characterisation of seven types of people, from jokers, scammers and politicians to conspiracy theorists and celebrities. 

Being discerning in how we navigate through the daily waves of data and news without upsetting our mental and emotional equilibrium, or sticking our heads in the sand, leads to the notion of ‘information hygiene’. For parents it can make for tricky choices: how to talk with a child about the non-stop shocking and disturbing reports without scaring them or creating unnecessary anxiety. As the LSE’s Sonia Livingstone says, children are often aware of more than we might realise:

“Research on child news audiences has long shown that children are observant of and interested in the troubles of the world. Certainly, even if they don’t mention it, they notice when their parents are worried. My first suggestion for families is: talk together about what’s happening. It’s especially vital to recognise children’s concerns – even young children want to understand, and to contribute where they can.”

Fortunately there are some helpful materials around to help and we want to highlight a few. At the end of the post we’ve also highlighted some of the interesting materials aimed at adults.

Families and teachers thinking about home learning

ParentInfo: Three tips for starting a difficult conversation with your child

ParentInfo: How to help children spot fake news

NewsWise National Literacy Trust: Top tips for talking with your child about the news

LSE: Coronavirus and #fakenews: what should families do?

Teaching resources made by ACT Teachers on Misinformation, Malinformation and Disinformation

Our friends at the Guardian Foundation, as part of the NewsWise project that we’ve mentioned before, have created some new great resources for families including activities for children: NewsWise for families: looking out for fake news. Also check out NewsWise for families: making your own news, the Happy News Challenge and the Funny news (but not necessarily true!)  – random generator

For children

Newsround: Fake news: What is it? And how can you spot it?

Newsround: Happy News

Bite Size Fact or fake campaign

We’ve written and presented about these issues many times and we look forward to running our News Project with schools in what we hope will be happier times next academic year.As part of our Tech Pathways London project we have a brief on critical literacy for older students.

For adults

Ofcom CV-19 stats

We’re part of the Making Sense of the Media network organised by Ofcom and although everyone may feel overwhelmed by statistics at the moment, this weekly service offers a valuable insight into the nation’s news consumption habits.

For adults, and adults guiding children, there is a very useful roundup of resources at Ofcom’s Cutting through the Covid-19 Confusion: the weekly reports are mentioned in the leading item

Want to find out more?

ACT are running a 3-part CPD course which will run from the 20th May – 17th June. The course is designed to counter misinformation about Covid-19 and focuses on media literacy education through citizenship. Find out more and register here

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Upcoming CPD

Summer primary school computing conference
Summer primary school computing conference

This event will build upon the Autumn computing conference by inviting subject leaders to reflect on their year in the role, sharing their successes and challenges. It will also introduce new ideas, tools and approaches through talks and practical activities led by members of the CLC team, with opportunities for attendees to share their own expertise and experience. Over the course of the conference activities will touch on the three main areas of the computing curriculum: computer science, digital literacy and information technology. We will also feature advice and examples illustrating the use of technology to support blended learning.

- 15:30
Computing subject leaders, Teachers...
Creative Arts, Digital and children – CLC meets More Than Robots online
Creative Arts, Digital and children - CLC meets More Than Robots online

Combining forces for the first time, the Connected Learning Centre and More Than Robots have created a session for teachers, youth organisations, researchers and policymakers interested in the digital provision of creative arts for primary aged pupils.


The Play Observatory - Prof. John Potter

“In their own words”: Westminster Abbey & CLC digital projects - Sian Shaw

Building (and maintaining) a city-wide primary arts curriculum to raise attainment - Kate Fellows

More to be added soon

This interactive and inclusive meet up will include inspiring examples of how technology can be used to support learning in music, visual art and drama in person and online at home drawing on our experiences as Tate Exchange associates and our partnership work with a range of cultural institutions.

This informal event is an opportunity to discuss real examples of what does/doesn’t work, meet colleagues from other sectors working on similar challenges and share useful research, news or updates

The morning will include case study presentations (details below) followed by a Q&A. There will also be an opportunity for a rapid sharing round for launches, project updates or requests for help and a short break to avoid zoom brain drain.

- 11:30
KS1, KS2
Subject leaders, Teachers...

Upcoming Special projects

The News Project
- 14:25

Special project in collaboration with First News Education

For a third year, building on two successful previous projects, we are once again partnering with the children’s newspaper First News, fellow member of the national Making Sense of Media and News Literacy networks. This special project with a literacy, PSHE and citizenship, as well as computing focus, highlights our specialist interest in this important aspect of digital and critical literacy.

The News Project will enable participating classes from year 5 to immerse themselves in news and current affairs using First News and the Bett award-winning First News iHUB, which will be provided free of charge during the school-based part of the project over a six week period. Under the guidance of their teacher, pupils will be supported in their development as a community of fully informed news readers. Classes will test their new critical skills and knowledge in the culminating virtual celebration event which will include a news competition and team-based critical literacy and editorial activities. After the event, schools will be able to use the resources from the day in their school.

The project will launch with an introductory CPD session for teachers to set the context, demonstrate resources and to plan for the school-based activities. 

Initial CPD session - Thursday 21st October 4pm-5.00pm. 

Project work undertaken in school - October and November.

Special event - Thursday 25th November 9.30am-2.45pm.

The Garden Museum

The CLC is once again partnering with the Garden Museum to offer a partnership project for KS1 pupils (primarily suited to Yr2). Located next to Lambeth Palace on the bank of the Thames, the museum has an inspiring collection that provides the ideal stimulus for young learners to explore the world around them.

Pupils will use technology alongside the museum’s collection to explore the wonderful world of seeds.

  • How are they planted?
  • How do they spread?
  • What is inside them?

 The Garden Museum has a large collection of seeds and tools that pupils will engage with.

These half-day sessions will take place at the Garden Museum.

There is a limited number of dates available, so please book early to avoid disappointment.

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