Former Cameron adviser calls for children to be taught how to navigate internet

A former adviser to David Cameron has said children should be taught how to navigate the internet from a young age, amid concerns over misinformation on social media.

Tory peer Baroness Fall said she thought regulation of social media was likely, but that "I am less certain that we can count on it to protect the integrity of our democracy".

The Baroness, who served as the former Prime Minister's deputy chief of staff, said people on social media had an infinite number of news sources at their fingertips.

David Cameron
Baroness Fall served as David Cameron's deputy chief of staff (Hannah McKay/PA Archive)

"We scour the net. We are less certain of what is information and what is misinformation, who to trust, what is real and what isn't," she added.

"Our judgement in the content of what we read clouded by the lack of context, and with it the waves of supercharged reactions, so powerful, sometimes a force for good and necessary change, and sometimes not.

"And when the truth emerges, if it does, it is often too late to defuse the tensions it has stirred, the reality lost in the midst of anger.

"So the storm rages about how our democracy is under threat from social media, with far fewer ideas of how to address it.

"Whilst I have no doubt that regulation of one form or another will come, I am less certain that we can count on it to protect the integrity of our democracy.

"So that leads us back to the individuals who use it in the first place, and to their judgement, which brings us back to education.

"I believe it is vital to teach children from a young age to navigate the web, to help them assess the validity of what they read, to explain why they should care in the first place."

Baroness Fall added that she wanted to encourage debate in schools and universities and "not wrap them up in cotton wool".

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