A new programme for primary schools has been launched to prepare 9-11 year olds to navigate the world of news and misinformation.
NewsWise, created by the Guardian Foundation, National Literacy Trust and the PSHE Association, aims to create a generation of news-savvy children, capable of thinking critically about the information they are reading online.
Free lesson plans with over 60 accompanying resources, including videos and 'fake news' games, are now available for every primary school in the UK. The tools teach children to identify disinformation, bias, opinion and rumour and ultimately producing their own news reports on issues that matter to them.
"We wanted to reach those children that are underrepresented in the media, and give young people a voice while helping them understand the world around them," said Ben Hicks, executive director, the Guardian Foundation.
"Children usually get their mobiles when they hit year seven, so you have to get to them before their lives get completely changed by the fact they are in the digital world.
"The programme is age-appropriate, speaking to kids. It's fun and they get to be news reporter."
NewsWise launched following a parliamentary commission which revealed that 97 per cent of primary school children lack the critical literacy skills to tell if a news story is real or fake.
"We have spent a lot of time with an evidence-based approach speaking to teachers understanding how the curriculum works so it fits into teachers' time," he said.
The programme was originally piloted in 12 schools across some of the most underserved communities in the UK.
As well as workshops & FREE resources for all #primary educators @GetNewsWise also brings journalists into schools to share their experiences & thoughts on reporting & fact checking. Here the brilliant @Kathie_McInnes from @SentinelStaffs meets Yr5 pupils from @StMarksShelton pic.twitter.com/ZSXxRLfvxA— NewsWise (@GetNewsWise) September 21, 2018
NewsWise project director Angie Pitt explained feedback has been positive, with many of the youngsters feeling like they had fun and were not in a lesson at all.
"9-11 is the age where children are starting to learn critical thinking skills in school, and we think these skills should be applied to the news," she said.
"Having simple questions to ask themselves when they read through text will ensure they enter the online world feeling empowered and knowing what they are about to get into.
"We are showing them that news is something interesting and worth engaging in, which is good for the whole news industry."
Organisers of the project are inviting the media to engage with this discussion, recognising that news literacy is a necessity in the digital era.
Interested in how to get Generation Z engaged with news? What about social media storytelling? Then come along to our Newsrewired conference on 7 November where we will be discussing how to implement both of these in the newsroom.
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