Only one in three adolescents in Latvia has a habit of checking the validity of information before sharing it online. More than half of the respondents admit that they have not learnt at school how to check the validity of information, therefore it is their parents that play an important role in combatting misinformation, since children mention them as the primary source of information, when checking whether the information is true in cases where a child encounters dubious information online or understands that what they have read online cannot be trusted. These are the conclusions resulting from the survey conducted by Telia Company and Drossinternets.lv.
“The results of our research confirm the crucial role and responsibility of parents in limiting the spread of false information among youths and children. To increase the reliability of the internet environment and limit the spread of deliberately designed false information, it is important that parents teach their children how to differentiate between true and reliable information and false information, as well as develop the habit of always checking the news before sharing it,” the head of Drossinternets.lv, Maija Katkovska, says.
The results of the survey show that one third or 34% of children and youths aged 11 to 17 frequently encounter false information in the on-line environment. Almost one half or 47% of the respondents say that they sometimes encounter false and inappropriate news. The most common type of false information is so-called clickbait, fake images and fake news; in most cases they are rumours about celebrities.
“I saw a post from an unknown Instagram account stating that the group One Direction would reunite again, and I was very happy and surprised. I immediately forwarded this news to my friends without even checking whether it was true, but after having a closer look at the comments, I discovered that everyone was saying that it was not true and the information was made up. Then I googled this information and discovered that it really was false,” said one of the participants of the survey from Latvia describing her experience.
One in ten adolescents admit that they never check the nature of information before sharing it on social networks. The majority of respondents ‒ 62% do it sometimes or rarely. In most cases the youths tend to check the correctness of information, when searching for information that is required for their studies, hobbies and leisure interests – more than half of the respondents reportedly do this. Unwavering trust in what has been said by influencers and bloggers is observed among youths – only one third of the respondents check whether such information is true. Less than one fifth of respondents tend to check whether the information that is provided by their friends and acquaintances is true.
Remarkably, when in doubt regarding the nature of the information, children most frequently approach their parents to check whether it is true; this is admitted by 64% of the surveyed children and adolescents. One third of the respondents say that they ask their friends. A popular way of checking whether the information is true is using websites that are known to provide reliable information, for instance, news portals. This way of checking information is used by 39% of the respondents. Unfortunately, an overwhelming majority or 85% of the surveyed children never report the administration of social networks, if they find out that information distributed on the network is false.
More than half, or 57% of the children report that they have not been taught at school how to check whether the information is true. Out of those who have learnt this skill at school, 49% say that the provided information and the obtained knowledge has been insufficient.
Children of Latvia consider the most reliable source of information to be Wikipedia – 45% of internet users trust the online free encyclopaedia that can be edited by any internet user. 39% of Latvian youths report that they trust in news portals and 29% believe information provided on YouTube. It must be noted that youths find information on Facebook to be much more unreliable – only 13% of the respondents believe that it is a reliable source of information. For comparison, children in Sweden and Finland demonstrate much higher trust in news portals than in Latvia, as well considerably less trust in social media.
In 2021, more than 5,000 adolescents from the Baltic states, Sweden and Finland participated in quantitative and qualitative research on the experience of children with misinformation in the digital environment, initiated by Telia Company. ln Latvia, this survey was implemented by Latvijas Drošāka interneta centrs (Latvian Safer Internet Centre) with the support of Telia Latvia and, within the framework of the survey 1,000 children and adolescents of Latvia aged 11 to 17 were surveyed.
Drossinternets.lv has prepared recommendations on how to assess and check whether the published information can be trusted. The recommendations are available here: Recommendations
The infographic of the survey is available here: Infographic
The summary of the results of the Telia Company survey is available here: Results of survey