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Safer Internet Day 2021 was celebrated in the UK on 9th February.

The global theme this year is:

‘An internet we trust: exploring reliability in the online world’

The aim of Safer Internet Day is to inspire a national conversation about using technology responsibly, respectfully, critically and creatively.

Separating fact from fiction: Half of young people encounter misleading content online on a daily basis

Research reveals the new challenges young people face in identifying misleading content, at a time when being online is more important than ever

  • 77% of young people say being online is a more important part of their life than ever before, with 65% enjoying online lessons during lockdown amidst school closures
  • 48% of young people are seeing misleading content every day, with more than one in 10 seeing it more than six times a day – often leaving them feeling annoyed, upset, sad, angry, attacked or scared
  • 43% of young people have noticed their friends and peers sharing misleading content (such as fake news) online
  • 62% of young people have had friend requests from people they don’t know
  • 59% of young people are aware they have a responsibility to report potentially damaging, harmful or misleading content online, but overall are more likely to block misleading content (21%) than report it (16%)

To mark this year’s Safer Internet Day, new research released today (9th February) by the official coordinators the UK Safer Internet Centre (UKSIC), shows young people’s experience of misleading content online as well as the strategies they are using to manage this.

The research comes as over 2,000 supporters in the UK, including Government ministers, Premier League football clubs, industry bodies, celebrities, charities, schools and police services join together with young people, to inspire and ignite conversations and host events that help to promote  safe, responsible and positive use of digital technology for children and young people.

Exposure to misleading content

77% of young people (aged 8 – 17) surveyed feel that being online has been a more important part of their life in 2020 than ever before. The internet has become a fundamental part of young people’s education, with 65% of young people having enjoyed online lessons amidst lockdowns, which caused school closures nationwide.

Whilst 73% of young people surveyed feel that being online has helped them through the difficult pandemic and lockdowns, the research also found that over half (51%) of young people surveyed are encountering more misleading content online now than in the previous year. Up to 48% of young people surveyed said they encountered misleading content at least once a day or more frequently, with 24% of young people encountering it 2-5 times a day.

The research highlighted how likely young people are to fall for misleading online interactions, with 63% of them saying they would be likely to fall for things like gaming scams, sneaky/hidden sponsored ads, filtered/edited imagery on social media and stories from unofficial sources.[i] 53% of young people assume that images that they come across on social media are likely to have been filtered or edited to some extent.

The research showed that 62% of young people have had friend requests from people they don’t know. This highlights the importance in the decisions young people take towards their own safety, as well as the need for them to be able to manage the risks they are presented with online.

Reaction, response and reporting content

Insight shows that 25% of young people admit to sharing online content from an unverified or untrustworthy source, with 43% seeing people their own age and friends sharing something misleading. When asked why,16% of young people surveyed either did it ‘just for fun’ e.g. as a harmless joke or without being aware of how misleading or ‘fake’ the content was. 35% also have seen influencers, bloggers, celebrities etc share misleading content (such as fake news) online.

58% of young people surveyed understand that sharing misleading content online could be harmful, whilst also recognising that it could cause further damage such as upset (55%), hurt (55%) or embarrassment (35%). Whilst many young people are likely to ignore misleading content or not do anything in response (48%), many others are likely to talk about it with a parent or carer (28%). 17% say that when they see their friends sharing such content, they have talked to them about it.

The majority of young people understand that they have a responsibility to be mindful of their actions when they are online. There can be a negative emotional impact that comes with encountering misleading content online, with 91% of young people feeling either annoyed, upset, sad, angry, attacked or scared at encountering various misleading interactions.[ii]

59% of young people are aware they have a responsibility to report potentially damaging, harmful or misleading content online, but overall, they are more likely to block misleading content (21%) than report it (16%).

Together for a better internet

Everyone has a role to play in creating and maintaining a better online world, whether you are a young person, a parent or carer, a teacher or an educator, a policy maker, or whether you represent an organisation or industry.

Whilst the majority of young people feel they have a responsibility to report misleading content that could be harmful online, 53% of young people surveyed also believe they have a responsibility to educate family and friends and to ‘call them out’ as and when they share it. 61% of these young people also want to learn more about how to spot misleading content online, with young people calling on social media and other online platforms (78%) and the government (72%) to do more to get involved in tackling misleading content online.

Safer Internet Day unites millions of young people, schools and organisations across the UK, to spark conversations around online safety and what to trust online. Over 2,000 organisations are taking part, joining young people in conversation, as well as hosting events. Across the day, the UK Safer Internet Centre will be releasing toolkits, resources and live content.

To keep updated and to get involved follow @UK_SIC and use the hashtags #SaferInternetDay and #AnInternetWeTrust. For further information, or to register your support as an organisation, visit

Safer Internet Day 2021 Top Tips:

Talk together

Communication is the key to identifying online misinformation….

Talk regularly with your child about how they use technology and where they go for information online. Discuss who they follow, what types of adverts they see, and what stories they find surprising or suspicious. Listening to your child will give you the best possible idea of how you can support them. Not sure where to begin? Have a look at our suggested ‘Conversation Starters’ for parents and carers.

Set an example

Show your child how you question and evaluate online content….

If you come across a fake news story, or get sent a phishing email, discuss with your child how you spotted it and what you did. Why not ask them for a second opinion? Your child may have already heard about it or seen something similar, and if not, it’s a learning opportunity for both of you. Seeing a parent actively question and evaluate online content teaches young people the importance of doing the same.

Think before you share

Fact-check and reflect before sharing content, posts or pictures….

It can be tempting to share surprising or attention-grabbing online content with your child or your family group chats, but make sure to fact-check these links before you do. As it’s come from a parent, some children may believe it without questioning it, and older children may find it difficult or awkward to point out if it is false or misleading. This is another chance to set a good example in how to share information responsibly online.

Check in with your child

How does misleading information they see online make them feel?

False and misleading content online can be upsetting and confusing, e.g. harmful claims that target specific groups, or unhealthy lifestyle tips. Young people may feel powerless when faced with the amount of unreliable content they see. Regularly check-in with your child about their online life and ask them how what they see makes them feel. This is an issue that affects all of us. Reassure your child that you are there to talk about things that upset them and to support them with how they feel.

Seek help and support

Ask other parents how they address misleading online content….

Just as we ask young people to talk about what they are unsure of, make sure you do too! Chances are that you’ll find other parents or carers who are trying to figure out how to help their family avoid false information and get the most out of the internet.

Find out how to get more support by visiting Childnet’s ‘Need Help?’ page. You can take steps to support your child online by using features such as making a report on a range of apps, games and services, and using privacy settings on social media.


Advice about smartphones, gaming devices, tablets and other internet-connected devices

This guide has been created to answer these questions and introduce some of the most popular devices, highlighting the safety tools available and empowering parents with the knowledge they need to support their children to use these technologies safely and responsibly.

Parents’ Guide to Technology

Please see below for our Acceptable Use Policy 2021, updated to include live sessions which took place using Google Classroom during lockdown:

Acceptable Use Policy 2021

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