top of page
  • Writer's pictureJunior Oliveira

Fake News & Fairy Tales: How can we teach our children to spot false information? See 7 useful tools

Did you ever think what you learnt from fairy tales when you were a child? I clearly remember about fascinating stories that nourished my imagination and provided me with enchanted forests filled with charming princesses and brave knights fighting against dragons in order to save magical kingdoms, among dozens of fantastic stories surrounded by surprising happy ends. For sure you remember Little Red Riding Hood and the bad cunning wolf. And I can say that with this adorable fairy tale, I discovered about analysing facts, bias, verification, and whether or not to trust strangers.

Let me explain: when the bad wolf ate the grandmother, and took her place and then lay on her bed, Little Red Riding Hood was really smart and cautious, as she analysed the signs presented in that whole scenario and avoided falling into a trap (she noticed the wolf's hoarse voice, his big hands, his big ears and finally when she saw his big mouth and realised that he was not her actual grandma, she ran away and escaped). For this reason, this tale taught me something essential and it helped me to develop my critical thinking, and we could even say that it pushed me to analyse the content beyond what I was able to see.

Ok ok, “to remember is to live” as the poet says, but what it is the connection between fairy tales and fake news? Well, currently, children are surrounded by media content every day, much more so than in our childhood, and they also absorb a massive amount of content by hearing and seeing the latest news provided by all the digital channels. This means that a significant part of this information comes through social media, and unfortunately much less from fairy tales or from a reliable adult mediating these content sources. I therefore have a question: "How competent do you think your child is in recognising fake news?" Also, bear in mind that they do not have any clue about the "wolf's big mouth" when these stories are presented to them. With this in mind, let's reflect on a simple example: a post on Twitter can go viral worldwide in less than 60 seconds. Do you think that a child with limited discernment and their media literacy in a developing stage can distinguish the truth from lies on the Internet? I know that there are several aspects to consider when we try to answer this question: their age and their intellectual background, (or how many fairy tales they have read), among other factors.

For this reason, we have to start to think about the issue of fake news, as the younger generation are now considered to be "digital natives" as they are growing up in a globalised world and also processing information from a wider variety of sources than ever before. Thus, it is essential for parents to assimilate that it is even harder for children to evaluate and verify content presented by a digital channel. But how can they learn about how to spot fake news?


Some countries have been working hard in order to find applicable solutions to minimise the impact related to this issue. Furthermore, some private companies have also started very effective projects, for example, the BBC launched a project entitled Beyond Fake News, examining the effect misinformation is having on people across the globe.

In the BBC Teach Section, they explain that we can find a collection of resources from around the BBC to help youngsters spot fake news and false information. This content explores the social, political and economic impact of news reporting, and the skills needed to analyse and critically evaluate information across a range of media. Also, I have found in the QZ webpage that some private foundations and nonprofit organisations such as Common Sense Education have developed checklists and other kinds of resources for educators to teach their students how to spot fake or biased information online. These checklists, including the CRAAP Test (pdf) and the AAOCC criteria, focus on evaluating a given information source’s authority, credibility, currency, and purpose


Creating a BULLSHIT DETECTOR (Gosh) Did I just read that?

I found a very peculiar analogy that was posted on another webpage: it might sound funny, and I am really sorry if it sounds somewhat rude, but basically, as the QZ webpage mentioned, the most applicable solution could be creating a “bullshit detector”, which really sounds surreal. A Media Literacy Specialist, Richard Hornik, director of overseas partnership programs at the Center for News Literacy, explains that “Fake news and false rumours reach more people, penetrate deeper into the social network, and spread much faster than accurate stories” because humans are drawn to those stories’ sense of novelty and the strong emotions they elicit, from fear to disgust and surprise.

Personally, I think that, nowadays, it is so tricky to recognise fake news, and I am sure you have faced some intriguing situation while you were accessing some social media platform, and you were not sure whether a piece of information was reliable or not. I was perplexed when I saw a false video that seems deceptively real: in this video, the former President Barack Obama says things he never said about Trump. It was created by an American actor who used AI technology to create an effective and realistic fake video; the most popular software is called FakeApp.

In general, Social Media platforms, due to their visual interfaces, often muddy the source of information, or make all outlets look similar, robbing the audience of visual cues to help them differentiate reliable and less-reliable sources. For this reason, we need to bear in mind that teaching kids to think critically is now a cultural imperative. The effects of misinformation on children are really hard to measure, and we need to find tools to equip them to deal with it as a crucial element related to their digital literacy. We have to teach our kids to think like "fact-checkers"; as parents, we have to look for tools in order to provide them with the skills they need to succeed in a digital world.

Our role as parents is to empower our children to make smart decisions, by navigating the 21st-century information landscape, being aware of any traps, so we can minimise the risks. To do so, parents must be up to date on all the topics related to how technology impacts children's development: click here to see other posts. I hope you found this post useful and informative. I really need your support, as this a self-funding project, so I kindly ask you (if you can or if you wish) to please share this post and subscribe to our mailing list!

Follow us on Facebook or on Twitter :>)

One last thing: here are some "Fact-Checking" tools and online sources. Have a look at this list of websites to help you and/or your children separate fact from fiction:

I hope you found this post useful and informative. I really need your support, as this a self-funding project, so I kindly ask you (if you can or if you wish) to please share this post and subscribe to our mailing list!

Follow us on Facebook or on Twitter :>)

References: To see the sources of this article, please click on each link within the text. See you, guys!

Photo Credits:

<a href="">People photo created by freepik -</a>

253 views0 comments


bottom of page