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Online, Seeing Is Believing for Kids

By Peter Clarke, JD on November 24, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

FindLaw columnist Eric Sinrod writes regularly in this section on legal developments surrounding technology and the Internet.

Unfortunately, there has been a sharp increase in the number of children who believe what they read on the Internet. This has been brought home by a recent study by Ofcom, as reported by The Telegraph.

This is significant because 8 to 15-year-olds now are occupying double their time on the Internet than they were one decade ago. These "digital natives" who have grown up on the Internet appear to lack the ability to differentiate online truth from fiction.

Some of the results of the Ofcom study are rather disturbing.

For instance, 10% of children believe that information provided via social media outlets always is true, double the percentage from last year. Moreover, the majority of 12 to 15-year-olds do not understand that some video bloggers are paid to endorse products that they cover.

Practically one-fifth of 12 to 15-year-olds trust that information derived from search engines such as Google must be true, and shockingly only one-third of them are not able to spot paid advertisements.

In addition, an increasing number of children are using YouTube for "true and accurate" information about news of the world. Of course, as most adults know, many of the videos posted do not constitute trusted news.

So, what is to be done?

Well, the young digital natives must be further educated. While 97 percent of them report that they have been given advice on how to stay safe online by parents and other adults, that appears not to be sufficient.

Our children of the Internet also need to be taught that not everything online is true, and they should be given guidance on how to critically analyze information for veracity and accuracy.

Eric Sinrod (@EricSinrod on Twitter) is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris LLP, where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology and intellectual property disputes. You can read his professional biography here. To receive a weekly email link to Mr. Sinrod's columns, please email him at with Subscribe in the Subject line. This column is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author's law firm or its individual partners.

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