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Fake and Harmful Content in Social Media

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In our long struggle to ensure our children grow up prepared for the harshness of society, one big challenge is the protection against harmful content on social media, including fake news articles. Whether it’s plastic jasmine rice or scams that coerce you to give over your personal details, there are many dangerous contents out there that everyone should watch out for. Here is MOE to share tips on how to help your children spot them.

Encourage your child to:

  • Question the source 1
    Remind your child that every time he comes across a website he doesn’t recognise, check the “About” section (if he could find one) to see whom the website belongs to and what the website is for. Even better, track the original source of the website by searching on Google the keywords he finds from the unfamiliar article and site content.
  • Question the source 2
    Look out for clues that the website is designed to mislead its readers, such as an obviously fake URL address passed off as an authentic news website. Other websites sometimes post content without verified information. Therefore, it is helpful to treat such suspicious websites with caution and discreet. Always check these so-called “news sources” against other sources on the Internet.

  • Look beyond appearances
    Encourage your child to look beyond sensational headlines that try to grab the readers, especially when many of such online headlines are what is known as “click-baits”, titles that are designed to have articles receive as many clicks as possible to earn revenue. Be on the lookout for facts, not opinions. Use the resources provided by government websites like gov.sg/factually or www.scamalert.sg to check whether if the website or its content nature have been referenced or mentioned as a scam or fake news site.

    Even if the site has stated a source, ensure that the source is legit and correct – even professional reporters have been bluffed by fake sources before after all.

  • Question the source, even if it’s from friends and family
    Often, your own friends and family can be fooled too into thinking that the news alerts are authentic. When they share these articles and alerts with your child, remind them to also check the sources and see if those news could be trusted.

Guide your child by:

  • Identifying what is credible
    One helpful solution to guide your child is by communicating with him what news websites are reliable and credible. Help him identify what quality information looks like by watching or reading the news together, and instead of depending on one or two news outlets for information, encourage your child to check out multiple news reports on the same news. Educate him on which important part of the news he should watch out for in terms of information reliability and credibility.

    Once he is equipped with these knowledge, he would be confident enough to navigate the Internet on his own without getting in trouble.

  • Co-viewing the content
    Some of you might remember spending time reading the news with your child when he’s a bit younger. This is a good way to share with your child on how you would assess the safety of news websites, such as avoid clicking a link that might lead him to harmful content. You could also guide him to check the news article’s sponsorship, as some writers are paid by sponsors to write with biasness to better reflect the sponsor.
  • Focusing on being digitally wise
    In spite of being more technologically-savvy than you, your child might not be digitally wise. What this means is having the wisdom to properly assess a website and its information’s credibility, not to mention enforcing important principles like respecting others online without resorting to calling names. Encourage him to be responsible for his actions and decisions in terms of what he reads on the Internet.

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