'Don't fall into any fake news traps!' What are the outcomes of a critical thinking skills programme on children and young people's ability to identify fake news online?

Rodgers, Louise M (2023) 'Don't fall into any fake news traps!' What are the outcomes of a critical thinking skills programme on children and young people's ability to identify fake news online? DAppEdPsy thesis, University of Nottingham.

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Fake news is a category of disinformation linked to behaviours which are harmful to society and individuals. There is some evidence that belief in fake news tends to be more prevalent amongst young people, making this group potentially more vulnerable to its negative effects. In this study, a systematic review of the literature was undertaken. Findings revealed that much of the previous research around mitigating approaches has involved self-selecting participants of an older age group. This embedded mixed methods study aimed to build on this research with primary school pupils aged 10-11, as a population identified as potentially vulnerable to some of the effects of fake news, but with little systemic support. Research based in inoculation theory, which is analogous to medical vaccination, indicates that pre-emptive debunking of fake news, by exposing individuals to disinformation techniques, can offer some protection.

Within this study, inoculation techniques were combined with critical thinking skills in a teaching programme which raised awareness of fake news techniques and the cognitive biases which can affect responses. This was also intended to mitigate the potential limitations of prebunking, which include taking a position of distrust of the source of inoculations. Measures included a quasi-experimental quantitative measure of participants’ ability to identify fake news as well as a Thematic Analysis of teacher and pupil views about their participation in the programme and what mechanisms may have been involved in the outcomes.

The study findings suggest that the programme’s approach seems to be appropriate to the aged 10-11 age group and was felt to be effective in developing relevant knowledge and skills by the child and adult participants. It is also suggested that enjoyment of the programme may be a factor in pupil motivation and engagement with the subject which could be incorporated into similar future interventions.

Despite some methodological limitations, the study results indicate that there may be benefits to this programme and for further exploration of combining inoculation techniques with critical thinking skills.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (DAppEdPsy)
Supervisors: Durbin, Nicholas
Keywords: fake news, critical thinking, disinformation, misinformation, debunking, prebunking, gaming, gamified, children, young people, primary school, conspiracy, trolling, polarisation, impersonation, discrediting, mixed methods
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social sciences > HM Sociology
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Science > School of Psychology
Item ID: 74342
Depositing User: Rodgers, Louise
Date Deposited: 13 Mar 2024 13:06
Last Modified: 13 Mar 2024 13:06
URI: https://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/74342

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