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86% of 12-15 year olds filter for fake news, claims Ofcom research

Young teenagers are less trusting of news on social media than from other sources and most know how to separate fact from fiction, claims research from UK's communications regulator Ofcom. This is reassuring as social media is the second most popular source of news after television for 12 to 15 year olds.

96% of 12-15s are interested in news

Where do they get it from?

...and how many think these sources are truthful

Key findings amongst 12 to 15 year olds

  • More than half (54%) use social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, to access online news.
  • The news children read through social media is provided by third-party websites. Not all of this is from reputable news sources.
  • Around one-third (32%) who say social media is one of their top news sources believe news accessed through these sites is always, or mostly, reported truthfully, compared to over half (59%) who say this about TV and 59% and radio.
  • Nearly three-quarters (73%) are  aware of the concept of ‘fake news’, and four in ten (39%) say they have seen a fake news story online or on social media.

How kids filter news

In terms of how tweens check the veracity of the news they see online, the vast majority (86%) say they would make at least one practical attempt to check whether a social media news story is true or false. They do this by:

  • Seeing if the news story appears elsewhere (48%).
  • Reading comments after the news report in a bid to verify its authenticity (39%)
  • Checking whether the organisation behind it is one they trust (26%)
  • Assessing the professional quality of the article (20%)

Around two-thirds (63%) of 12 to 15 year olds who are aware of fake news are prepared to do something about it, with 35% saying they would tell their parents or another family member; 18% would leave a comment saying they thought the news story was fake; and 14% would report the content to the social media website directly.

The bad news

It is still worrying how many children struggle with telling fact from fiction. Almost half (46%) of 12 to 15s who use social media for news say they find it difficult to tell whether a social media news story is true and 8% say they wouldn’t make any checks.

The future

Summarising the findings of the report, Emily Keaney head of children’s research at Ofcom, says: “Most older children now use social media to access news, so it’s vitally important they can take time to evaluate what they read, particularly as it isn’t always easy to tell fact from fiction.

“It’s reassuring that almost all children now say they have strategies for checking whether a social media news story is true or false. There may be two reasons behind this: lower trust in news shared through social media, but the digital generation are also becoming savvy online.”


The findings are from Ofcom’s Children and Parents Media Use and Attitudes Report 2017. The report provides detailed evidence on media use, attitudes and understanding amongst children and young people aged 5-15, as well as in-depth information about media access and use among children aged 3-4. It also includes data on parents’ views about their children’s media use, and the ways that parents seek – or not – to monitor or limit such use. 

The report includes findings from an additional online study was conducted with 500 children aged 12-15, which explored children’s awareness, use and perceptions of content providers, and their interest in and ability to make critical judgements about news. The report also includes results from the following research studies and analysis: 

1. Analysis of children’s television viewing habits sourced from BARB, the UK’s television measurement panel, 2011-2016. 

2. ComScore data on the frequency with which the most popular web entities among internet users were visited by children aged 6-14 in May 2017. 

3. Children’s Media Lives 2017 qualitative research report. 

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