The young are in peril

Thirty-one percent of Filipino girls and young women are not sure how to spot disinformation online, and 6 percent cannot tell whether the information they see online is true at all, a survey by Plan International revealed.

Nearly a third of the 1,000 respondents say they spent more than 12 hours online.

Moreover, 38 percent of girls and young women have been led to believe a myth about COVID-19, and 35 percent have questioned whether they should get vaccinated.

Thirty-one percent of the 1,000 respondents say mistruths have been so dominant that they have doubted election results, while one in five have stopped engaging in politics or current affairs altogether.

These figures from the Philippines form part of a larger survey, called The Truth Gap, conducted among 26,000 girls and young women from 26 countries.

The same global survey revealed that 87 percent of girls and young women feel that misinformation and disinformation online have a negative impact on their lives, and 20 percent feel physically unsafe because of false information on the internet, the study said.

One in three young women says false information is affecting her mental health — they feel stressed, worried and anxious.

The survey also revealed that lies found online have a profound impact on how young people engage with a myriad of issues, from COVID-19 to politics.

All of these underscored the need for governments to ramp up educating the youth on how to receive information they get from the internet.

Perhaps the government, as well as the private sector, civil society, communities and families should build on the finding that 93 percent of respondents in the Philippines say they are concerned about misinformation and disinformation, and that they recognize that social media platforms are channels for these lies: Facebook (81 percent), YouTube (44 percent), Twitter (30 percent) and Tiktok (24 percent).

It is at least a consolation that girls and young women are aware that the internet brings a different kind of danger during this information age, and that these are not at all harmless — they can do damage both physically and psychologically.

Advances in technology have made coping with restrictions brought about by the pandemic easier. If unchecked, however, the danger especially to impressionable young people could be devastating.

Adults should eschew the notion that social media and the internet are the domain of the young. They should step up and be familiar with what their children are up to so they can guide and protect them—online and offline.

Topics: disinformation , Plan International , election , The Truth Gap
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