Teenagers today still struggle to judge the truthfulness of information they find online, according to a new survey on children’s media consumption (pdf) by UK communications regulator Ofcom.
Although kids born after 1999 might seem Internet-savvy, Ofcom found that only 50% of British 12- to 15-year-olds who use search engines use critical judgement when filtering through results. Nearly 20% of the same age group blindly trust search engines, saying they believed that all results returned must be true (down from 33% in 2011).
These “digitally native” kids appear to be unaware of how online advertising works. Today, only one in three kids aged 12 to 15 could correctly identify sponsored links in Google search results—even though those links have the word “Ad” in a bright orange box next to them. Less than half of that age group knew that video bloggers could be paid to endorse brands or products.
The one area where kids show skepticism is social media. Seven out of 10 teens said they agreed with the statement: “I think most people behave in a different way online to when they talk to people face to face.” More girls than boys agreed with this statement.
Update: The headline on this article was changed to clarify that the Ofcom survey only covers British children.