[Head of School Message] Viral Trends and Fake News

In many ways, I don’t think that parenting has ever been so hard, as technology continues to add complexity to our lives.  While technology has made our lives so much easier in some respects, it has definitely made parenting harder.

In previous generations, parents did not have to contend with the challenges of social media, viral trends and fake news. Each week there seems to be a new viral trend on social media, with some of these being entertaining, others encouraging unsafe behaviours and some even being frightening. The power of social media is incredible and it can severely impact our daily lives. The other phenomenon which seems to dominate our lives is that of the rise of fake news. Fake news can be false or inaccurate information, photos or videos purposefully created to confuse or misinform. It can also be genuine information which has been manipulated to deceive. It is important that we learn how to distinguish between real and fabricated news. I am often amazed by what intelligent adults choose to believe, without question.

Parents often struggle with how to deal with their children’s use of social media, in particular viral trends and fake news. Here are some suggestions for assisting your children to navigate the world of social media:

  1. Be present when your children are using technology and know what they are accessing. Try to play the games they play or watch the YouTube clips they are viewing. Ensure that technology is used in a family space in the home and not in bedrooms. Have designated technology time in your home.
  2. Regularly check your children’s devices and tell them that you have a right to do this until they are 18 and whilst you are paying their bills (this may be well after 18!). Parents need to take responsibility for their children’s technology use.
  3. Set up appropriate device settings and parental controls.
  4. Be proactive and have discussions about viral trends and fake news. Share examples of these with your children and promote informed analysis and discussion. Teach your children to check the validity of a source and how to determine if something is real or fake. Teach your children to question things and to not believe everything they see or hear.
  5. Encourage family discussions about not bowing to peer pressure.
  6. If your child is frightened by something on social media, then “do your homework” and check whether it is real or not and then discuss this with your child.
  7. As parents, if you come across something alarming, make sure that you have all the facts and verify that something is real before posting or forwarding to others. Fake or inaccurate news and certain viral trends rely on the naivety of its audience which can cause much upset for others.

A great website and resource to refer to is National Online Safety. I recommend visiting this particular page which contains excellent, up-to-date information and suggestions regarding online safety and the use of social media.

Mark Hemphill | Head of School