15 Sep 2021

Keeping it real for kids on misinformation

From The Detail, 5:00 am on 15 September 2021
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Photo: YouTube screenshot

It’s called ‘The Eggplant’ and if you don’t know what that means in emoji language – it’s not for you.

The people who brought us the globally successful ad campaign warning parents about their children’s porn-watching activities, and who also created a six-part mini-series dealing with issues including bullying, grooming, and other porn-related issues, have produced something new.

As a bonus to The Eggplant they’ve also looked at the type of misinformation young people are dealing with online, and today on The Detail we speak to campaign head Trina Lowry about it.

The $4.4m government-funded Keep It Real Online campaign is aimed at getting kids to sit up and take notice.

You may have seen it on TVNZ On Demand, YouTube, social media, billboards and posters. The stars include Karen O’Leary (Wellington Paranormal) and Tammy Davis (Outrageous Fortune).

So serious is this surge of fake news aimed at young people that a range of government agencies, online groups and police are working together to try and control it.

“The topic of misinformation is becoming more and more in the spotlight,” says Lowry.

“There’s more people interested in knowing what the size of the problem is in New Zealand and how it’s impacting New Zealanders.

“Online there’s a lot of memes … a lot of sharing of information they receive … without thinking about it before they share it. There’s a lot of rumour and gossip that goes on.”

Gossip and rumour has always been there but once upon a time, before the internet, our news came in from main stream and reputable local sources – people we knew. That’s not the case with our children who are online and dealing with a lot of noise there.

“This generation is growing up with something that is completely different to any generation before them,” she says.

The Eggplant’s 77 minutes of episodes has seen more than 300,000 views and surveys done on who’s watched it suggest most of those children are having conversations with their parents about the topics.

Lowry calls that ‘huge’.

“Not only that, teachers are using it in the classroom as a teaching tool,” she says.

The education campaign wasn’t timed to coincide with a covid lockdown and vaccination rollout, where children are often free to roam the internet away from parents who are in another room on Zoom.

But it’s a happy coincidence.

“I guess with misinformation, we can see just the bubbling up of noise around the topic,” says Lowry.

“We know that it’s becoming more and more of a concern across many organisations. I don’t think covid has changed that, but it may have amplified it.”

With kids away from the protection of school filters that block harmful material it’s a good time to try to mitigate the risks of potentially more vulnerable children in lockdown.

Also today, Sharon Brettkelly talks to Martin Cocker, the head of Netsafe, one of the organisations that had a say in the campaign.

Find out why he’s not too worried about his pre-schoolers when it comes to the dangers of the internet – but why he holds fears for teens and pre-teens in this environment.


PIJF Photo: .