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Schools to teach pupils about perils of fake news and catfishing

Education secretary says guidance will help guard children against online harms


Guidance on teaching online safety in schools to make children more resilient to catfishing, fake news and other online harms has been announced by the education secretary.

The guidelines will combine teaching on relationships, citizenship and computing to help students understand the technology behind targeted advertising, false profiles and other digital issues.


The guidance, which is non-statutory, will advise schools to teach students about how URLs are made and what an IP address is, as well as how companies make targeted adverts through tracking behaviour and how someone can create a fake profile, known as catfishing.

Damian Hinds, the education secretary, speaking at an NSPCC conference about child online safety, said technology companies should not wait for legislation to be implemented to take action to protect children online.

He stressed they should make it easier for parents to exercise control over what their children can see online and that child-safe modes should be the default setting in many cases.

The culture secretary, Jeremy Wright, also expressed commitment to implementing the online harms white paper and vowed to create a regulator that would impose sanctions on tech companies failing to abide by a code of practice. These sanctions would include fines but also place responsibility on company directors and potentially lead to sites being blocked.

Guidelines for websites and apps on how to safeguard children from inappropriate content would be published in the autumn.