Renewed push for digital literacy as survey reveals only 17% of people think online information is reliable

21st June 2019

According to the findings of an independent survey released at the end of June at the House of Commons, only 17 per cent of people think information on the internet is reliable. Furthermore, despite knowing that a lot of online information is unreliable, only 15 per cent of respondents have changed how they use the internet.

The survey, conducted by Censuswide and commissioned by Encyclopaedia Britannica, which gathered responses from over 1,000 British adults, also revealed that more than a third of people admit to not researching the credentials of the websites they’re using.

250th Anniversary

The findings were announced at a House of Commons event on Monday, 24 June, highlighting the magnitude of misinformation in the digital age and how parents and educators can help children meet the challenges they face when using the internet.

The survey underlines the concerns regarding children and young people’s freedom to access the internet, with almost 60 per cent of respondents believing that children have access to technology at too young an age and without proper guidance. With children often immersed in technology – both in schools and at home – it is important that parents, teachers and guardians can effectively educate them on how to consume information and identify untrustworthy sources.

Currently, only six percent of respondents, including six percent of educators, believe that schools do not need help to teach digital literacy skills. This highlights a real need for more to be done in order to adequately support teachers.

Karthik Krishnan, global CEO of the Britannica Group, said: “Today, anyone can be a publisher on the internet, but the challenge with all the crowdsourced and user-generated content is that it can be right one day and wrong the next. Search and social engines aren’t yet sophisticated enough to tell the difference between good and plausible information. Relevant doesn’t mean it’s right. We need to prepare young people for life in the digital age and therefore have a responsibility to empower them to identify misinformation and distinguish fact from fiction. Media literacy is a key 21st-century skill.

“This survey clearly highlights the demand for ways to verify online information. For 250 years Britannica has cared deeply about knowledge evolution and human progress, and we’re keen to continue collaborating with key people and organisations globally to help people cut through the digital noise and discover sound information.

“The House of Commons event was an opportunity to start this dialogue with politicians, educators and parents to really emphasise the need to take a holistic approach to digital literacy within the classroom and beyond, and we look forward to working closely with our key influencers and partners to strengthen critical and cognitive thinking, and inoculate students and the world against the harmful effects of proactive misinformation.”

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