Study: How children and young people deal with rumors on the Internet

Young people are unsettled by fake news: The Austrian initiative presents a new study on the topic of "Rumors on the Net" on the occasion of Safer Internet Day 2017. For this purpose, 400 young people aged 14 to 18 were surveyed on how they deal with information from the Internet.

Under the term "fake news", "rumors on the net" have become the focus of attention in recent months. Young people are also confronted with this issue, as they obtain information on a daily basis via social networks, through which such false news spreads quickly and easily.

Dilemma for young people

By far the most important source of information for young people in Austria on daily topics (politics, sports, celebrities, etc.) is now social networks, along with television. In each case, 59 percent cite these as one of their three most important sources of information. Remarkable differences emerge when the frequency of media use is compared with the assessment of credibility: 29% of the young people surveyed rate television as "very credible," but only 10% rate social networks. In addition, 60% of the young people state that in their estimation a large proportion of the news on current topics in social networks is untrue. This is precisely where the dilemma lies: although they accord social networks only a low level of credibility, for young people they are the most important source of information on current topics. Young people are well aware of this contradiction, but often do not know how to deal with it.

Information evaluation as a challenge

In the flood of information on the Internet, young people have difficulty distinguishing true from false reports. 86% of the young people surveyed say they are at least sometimes unsure whether the information they are confronted with is true or false. For 38%, this is even "often" or "very often" the case. It is therefore not surprising that 61% of young people rate evaluating information on the Internet as a major challenge.

62 percent of young people do their own research on the Internet if they are not sure whether information is correct. 45 percent check who published the information, 30 percent trust their gut feeling and 19 percent pay attention to who they got the information from. Nevertheless, in practice the research usually remains very superficial: In a Google search, usually only the first hits are taken into account, the second results page is not consulted according to the qualitative individual interviews. Often, just skimming the headlines in the search results is enough to consider a piece of information to be sufficiently verified.

Dealing with information has to be learned

Information literacy is essential for correct judgment. Our society, and with it our communication, is shifting more and more to the Internet, so the ability to assess and evaluate information correctly is becoming increasingly important. According to the young people surveyed, teachers and parents in particular have an important role to play in imparting this competence and acting as contacts. Help for parents and teachers is available here:

  • Tips on the topic of "Rumors on the Net" for parents of children aged 13 to 18 are provided in episode 11 of the "Ask Barbara" video series from
  • The new teaching material "Fact or fake? How to debunk fake news on the Internet" from the new series "klicksafe to go" contains factual information and teaching units on the topic of fake news.
  • The new Fake News Bingo from is a fun way to get to the bottom of fake news.

Further information