From fake news to sponsored content: Do children and young people know fact from fiction?

February 9, 2021

From fake news to sponsored content: Do children and young people know fact from fiction?

February 9, 2021


  • Be responsible
  • Create trustworthy content
  • Transparency in your messaging is key
  • Promote a safe and secure community


What is Safer Internet Day?

Safer Internet Day 2021 is on the 9th of February and will be celebrated with the theme ‘An internet we trust – exploring reliability in the online world’. Safer Internet Day inspires a national conversation about using technology responsibly, respectfully, critically, and creatively.

Here at Rocket we specialise in helping brands with their content marketing to a children’s, youth and parent audience. This means we are passionate about ensuring the content we create for clients is helping make the internet a safer place. We are in regular contact with the ASA and are a proud partner with Media Smart UK, who are a non-profit education programme ensuring every child aged 7 – 16 can confidently navigate the media they consume.


This Safer Internet Day we are focussing on the theme of reliability online, opening up conversations with young people about how they explore information, looking at the strategies they can implement to spot and speak out against harmful and misleading content online. We want to promote the campaign messaging of having #AnInternetWeTrust.

We asked our Little Shots about what they use the internet for, the content they engage with and what they understand about being safe online. 

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This insight from children aged 7-11 years highlights just how much they use the internet. It’s hugely important for businesses like ours to create content that engages children, but ensures they are safe when playing games, online learning, researching or chatting to their friends.


Our Research

We assembled our Little Shots panel, who are children aged between 5 to 12 years old, asking them questions about the content they view online, how they use the internet and how can it be made safer.

60% of children access the internet on tablet devices, with 80% of these saying their tablet looks different to their parents.

60% of children learn about the internet and how to use it in schools, 40% don’t.

Being safe online means a varied number of things to children, most importantly it’s about not talking or engaging with strangers online. A big topic was knowing which websites were trusted and not going to take you to a destination you do not know.

In our survey, children’s access to the internet is mainly through YouTube but also games like Minecraft and Roblox.

Of our surveyed panel 60% say they look at YouTube online with 20% on games and the other 20% on Social apps.

100% of our panel say they regularly speak with their friends online.

Most of our children use the internet for school and games.

60% of our children know what fake news is but there is still a doubt on confusing content.


What does this mean for brands?

Responsible, transparent and trustworthy content for brands is key, always remember who you’re speaking to and which platform. Make sure your online communities are a safe place with moderated content that safeguards your end user and promotes safety online – for brands that appeal to the under 16’s this is especially important.

Advertisers have been caught out for presenting games and toys in ways that confuse younger children between the reality of the product’s abilities and imaginative play. You must ensure that there is a distinguish between real-life situations and fantasy. Think, if your content comes across as ‘Too good to be true’ it will mislead your end target audience, so take a positive step! (source ASA) For example, you cannot be pushing sales of your product through an interactive game on children’s media sites.

Make sure your social communities are a safe place, not just for your brand message but your end customers. For example, if you’re a University, ensure your social channels are a safe place from bullying or harmful comments towards your students.


Our Involvement

This year for Safer Internet Day, we have partnered with Media Smart UK and EdComs to create an educational resource for children aged 11-14 years on recognising branded content.

We are helping children understand the commercial link between social influencers and the brands they may be promoting.  At Rocket, as a business that manages influencer marketing campaigns in the youth, teen and parent space, it is so important for us to be championing best practice.

Social influencers (or content creators) as they are more commonly known, are a huge part of entertainment for this age group so it’s essential they recognise when they are being advertised or marketed to.

This resource will be shown in secondary schools across the UK in PSHE lessons, to teach children to recognise sponsored content online.  Our aim was to create a resource lead by a content creator appealing to this audience, to build digital and media literacy on this subject.  You can view more here.

Key Takeaways:

 ·      Be responsible

·      Create trustworthy content

·      Transparency in your messaging is key

·      Promote a safe and secure community.

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