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Critical thinking online

The impact of online information

We are influenced by everything around us, including the things we might come across online. Online information can impact our thoughts, feelings, beliefs and behaviour.

This includes:

Some things we see online influence us in a positive way. For example, reading an article about someone starting a business might make us feel inspired.

Other things can influence us in a negative way. For example, something we read might make us believe something is real when it isn’t. A video we watch might encourage us to behave dangerously or do things that could get us into trouble. Photos we see might make us think everyone else has the perfect body or life.

That’s why it is important to be ‘critically aware’ of information online. Being critically aware involves being able to assess whether what we’ve read or seen is true and think about what impact it might have on us.

This can help us to decide whether or not we want to be influenced by the information.

‘Fake news’ (news or stories that are not true) spreads quickly and easily online. It can be hard to tell what’s fake and what’s real online. Fact-checking sites can help you to tell the difference between fact and fiction.

How to be critically aware of online information

There are some easy things you can do to increase your critical awareness of online information.

  1. Assess it. Judge if you think things you see online have been edited to make people look better.
  2. Check it. Look at another website or source of information that you know and trust to see if it backs up what you’ve read or seen.
  3. Read it. Headlines or titles can be misleading. Read the whole article or blog carefully. Think about what they’re saying and whether it seems true or not.
  4. Speak to an adult you trust. They will be able to help you think about what you’ve seen, whether it’s true or not and what impact it could have on you.

Being critically aware of people online

It is also important to be critically aware of people you meet online. Just like information we read or see online, they can influence how you behave or what you believe.

Before you are influenced by someone you have met online, you need to be sure they are who they say they are.

It is easy for people online to hide who they really are and pretend to be someone else. People who do this are sometimes called ‘catfish’.

If you’re worried that someone you’ve met online isn’t who they say they are or if they are making you feel uncomfortable, speak to a trusted adult or report it to CEOP.

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