Fake News – The Governement’s new guidance

Fake News – the Government’s new guidance

I was discussing plans with a young person to explore parts of the UK they had never been before.  When I pulled out a Road Atlas for her, she commented how quaint that was.  It reinforced to me how much life has changed.  Paper maps, newspapers, letters, cheque books and even money are almost things of the past.  Young peoples’ lives are, to a large extent, lived, researched and organised online.

In this new reality, the Government’s new guidance on online safety* rightly identifies the need to teach pupils how to evaluate what they see online.  There are many scenarios in which this is important for their safety:  an obvious priority is recognising grooming or radicalisation; distinguishing between well-informed, health websites and those where there is either a commercial motivation or dubious advice is another.  In addition to this is the whole issue of fake news.

The growth in social media usage (and the way that it can be monetised) has both enabled and encouraged the proliferation of fake news.  Online anonymity, fake profiles and automated bots all contribute to the spread of disinformation but ordinary social media users, including children, who onward share such content, also unwittingly play a part.

Social media platforms and teaching fake news

As social media platforms have increased the number of fact checkers trying to counter this growth, so the producers of fake news have become better at evading them.  Facebook’s Community Standards Enforcement Report** shows that over 2 billion fake accounts were removed by it in the first quarter of this year alone.  In addition, fake news stories are likely to become harder to detect as a result of Deepfake technology.  This is being developed using artificial intelligence to produce increasingly realistic voices and images.  It is now possible to analyse and mimic an individual’s speech, seamlessly blend a face onto a different body (used in fake porn amongst other things), or convincingly synchronise lip movements to match words allegedly being spoken.

It is human nature to be intrigued by shocking stories, especially about public figures, but most of us retain a healthy scepticism of unlikely stories from doubtful sources.  Children, on the other hand, with their limited life experience are more vulnerable to believing what they read, hear or see, and need help to recognise the possibilities that online content has been faked or manipulated.  Fake news is not harmless; it contributes to social division, which can fuel extremism and violence as well as risking a society where truth can be dismissed as “fake news” and where no-one believes anything, because they can’t be sure what is true and what is not.

There are a number of clues that children can be taught to look out for, such as checking the source, the style of language, checking other news sites for collaboration, date and fact checking, but this on its own is not enough.  In addition, they need to be aware of the growing capability to alter voices and images in a realistic way.  We need teach a healthy scepticism (especially of items supporting unlikely, extreme or political views) and an awareness of the motivations (including those of foreign powers who seek to sow discord in our communities) that may be behind online posts.  We need to help them develop skills of thoughtfulness, reflection and reasoned debate so that they question the views they are presented with and consider alternatives.  We also need to make them aware that by ordinary users sharing fake news with their friends, they are helping to spread the problem and potentially damaging their own society in doing so.

This will be a challenging topic for schools to address but one that is important to prepare our children for their changing world.



(These figures include fake accounts created for all reasons, not just to spread fake news).

Personal Information – How safe is yours?

Personal Information – How safe is yours?

At Gooseberry Planet, we deal with hundreds of schools every day.

What I am noticing more and more is the number of teachers’ email addresses that are getting hacked.  I must receive 10 emails a day from teachers which contain an attachment with a Purchase Order? or payment information and a link to follow.  I know that these have been generated by an account that has been hacked.

Are we really taking enough care to protect our passwords and our personal information?  Once a person has access to our email accounts, they have the freedom to access ANY of our accounts and reset passwords.  As a school you should ensure that all staff are aware of the risk of being hacked.   v Phishing emails are commonplace and look so innocent.  They ask you to follow a link and enter your personal information.  Pop-up ads may do the same, perhaps masquerading as a genuine company but in fact using malware to re-direct you to a different website altogether, which then misuses the information that is unwittingly divulged.   I know school networks have been put down completely due to one member of staff not being vigilant.  Staff should know never to enter personal information via a link – always go to the website directly, check that it uses securely encrypted messaging (shown by “https” in the web address) before sending personal details.

I am also noticing how many staff use their personal email for work and work email for personal bits.  This should really be discouraged.  Some teachers also use their school email to access private apps on school networks.  These Apps, if not from reputable sources, can also pose a security risk to your network.   This is a particular concern to schools in light of their responsibilities for data protection.

The first line of defence for any organisation is passwords.

Staff should know how to set a strong password (you would be amazed how many people use “123456” or “password”).      I do love our password system in the Gooseberry Play.  We are already teaching children as young as 5 to generate passwords that have 3 words in.  You might think, how on earth do you teach a 5-year-old to do this?    Well, we use pictures.  For example, bluedog5, is a picture of the colour blue, a picture of a dog and the number 5.  Teachers love this and so do the students but best of all, it is the beginning of the educational process about how to stay safe online.

The irony is that we are teaching our children how to protect their data when many staff seem not to know themselves.  I know that 71% of teachers use Facebook and this platform (and others) there are often quizzes.  People seem unable to resist answering questions that are often quite simplistic and offer very little informed feedback to the user.  Be wary of these.   They may ask questions about your children’s names, your star sign, your pet’s name, your favourite colour.  They are collecting personal information which can be useful to criminals trying to guess passwords in order to hack accounts.  Resist the urge to complete online quizzes!

This month’s alert is about Personal Information and advice on how to protect it.  As usual, we offer this advice to Students, Parents and Teachers, all with conversation starters.

Interesting facts for social media & personal information

BBC article

More than £190,000 a day is lost in the UK by victims of cyber-crime, police statistics show.

More than a third of victims in that period fell prey to the hacking of social media and email accounts.

Action Fraud said £34.6m was reported to be stolen from victims between April and September 2018, a 24% increase on the previous six months.

The City of London Police, which runs Action Fraud, has warned people to keep separate passwords for online accounts.

The figures show 13,357 people in the UK reported cyber crimes over six months.

More than 5,000 of those people were hacked via their social media and email accounts, costing victims £14.8m.



What can I do if I’m being bullied online?

What can I do if I’m being bullied online? Written by The Diana Award

Bullying doesn’t just have an impact within the confines of the school gates. It can take place on social media, on the school bus, on online games, in youth clubs – and its impact can stretch long into adulthood.

A survey of 2,000 British adults conducted by The Diana Award in 2018 found that:

  • 55% said they have experienced bullying while at school.
  • 69% who have experienced bullying at school said their confidence has been affected as a result of this experience.
  • 81% agreed with the statement “bullying is commonplace online”.

The fact that bullying still has a significant impact on confidence in adulthood goes to show what a devastating experience it can be for young people. Bullying can make young people feel upset, uncomfortable, and unsafe. It is an experience that is far too common: it’s estimated that at any one time, there are 16,000 young people absent from school because of bullying.

At The Diana Award, we believe that nobody should experience bullying and we all have a role to play in standing up to it.

Top tips for dealing with the issue

Cyberbullying can make you feel very alone and unable to manage the situation but as with any type of bullying it is so important it is dealt with straight away.

Advice if you’re being bullied online

1. Tell someone. As with any type of bullying it so important that you don’t suffer in silence and you tell someone about it straight away. It may seem hard do but make sure you tell a trusted adult, such as a parent or teacher, and they will help you to decide what to do.

2. Block the person/group. Most social media sites will give you the option to block and report the person/group cyberbullying you. When you block someone it usually means that the person/group will no longer be able to contact you or see any of your content. Check out the links below to read about how you can block the person/group on different social media sites.

3. Report the person/group. Cyberbullying is never acceptable and you should report the content (pictures, text, group etc.) to someone you trust and to the social media site. If you have blocked the person but it is still continuing, all social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Bebo, etc have report abuse buttons, as do most mobile phone networks who have teams to deal with abuse. Games consoles also have advice on their websites. Reporting is usually anonymous so the person will not know that you have reported the content. Check out the links below to read about how you can report the person/group on different social media sites.

4. Save the evidence. It is really important that you save or copy any of the cyberbullying such as texts or conversations you receive so you have evidence of the cyberbullying and can show it to the relevant people. A good way to do this is to press the ‘PrtScrn’ button on the right hand side of the keyboard which prints the screen and you then copy and paste this into a word document or try using Window’s ‘snipping tool’.

5. Don’t reply or answer back. It may be very tempting to reply to the person or group but don’t become a cyberbully yourself, deal with the bully by blocking and reporting the abuse. It is sometimes hard not to write back, but it is always best not to retaliate, but to block and monitor the situation. Sometimes the people bullying you are looking to get a reaction out of you and answering back can just make it worse.

6. Stay positive. Although it may feel like you do not have control of the situation, you can. Make sure you do the steps above and talk to people inside and outside of school that you can trust. These people care for you and will work with you to stop the cyberbullying. Stay positive, you are not alone and things will get better : )

Things that every single person who uses the internet should do…

1. Treat your password like your toothbrush! At some point we have all told someone else our password for some reason and many of us, (although we shouldn’t), have the same passwords for different log-ins. You should treat your password like your toothbrush and not share it with anyone but yourself! The best passwords contain numbers and capital letters. This will mean people can’t access your account and steal any information, pictures or personal data or pretend to be you. Change your password regularly and don’t have the same one for every account. This site tells you how long it would take for someone to crack your password:

2. Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your Grandma to see. You should always think twice about what you post online and who you share it with. Remember potential employers and teachers may be able to find what you post so don’t post anything online that you wouldn’t want yourGrandma to see!

3. Choose who you share your information with. Remember when you accept someone as your friend on instant messaging or social networks, they can access information and pictures you have posted so make sure you are happy for them to see this and you know and trust them. You wouldn’t tell a random person in the street where you live and where you’ve been on holiday so act the same online. Check out the privacy settings which will allow you to choose the information you share with people, for example you can set your profile or data to private or only allow certain people to contact you and view particular information. Don’t ever share where you live, your telephone number or email address with friends online.

4. Google your name. Even if you don’t admit it we’ve all done this once!! Typing your social media usernames and your full name into Google is a really good way to check your privacy settings and check that people like potential future employers, college or university admissions tutors can’t view any of the content you’ve posted on social media.

find out more about The Diana Award Anti-Bullying Campaign visit

For further support on cyberbullying, visit:

Online Gaming in the Family

Guest blog by Andy Robertson

Online Gaming in the Family

Video games have changed a lot over the last 20 years. When I played on my Commodore 64 and Spectrum 48k during my childhood they were expensive, short and offline. Now they are often free to play, endlessand online. This brings with it both challenges and opportunities for parents and carers of children who love to play games.

Today I’m writing about online gaming. Whereas previously if you wanted to play a game against another human being you had to be in the same room, now — as we all know — you simply connect your console or computer to the internet.

Children can use games to stay connected with friends, build community and engage with other kids from different cultures from all over the world. It also lets them have a lot of fun online playing together.

It also means that it is important that you set up the parental controls to limit how and what a child can share with other people. According to OFCOM, playing an online game is often the first place a young child will encounter and interact with someone they don’t know online.

The best way to keep things safe and healthy is to have game consoles and technology in shared family spaces. This ensures that you can see what’s going on. But also, if your child plays with a headset, get them to play without it from time to time so you can hear what’s going on.

This also makes it easier to take an interest in the games they play. Rather than just worrying about the total time on their screens, this means parents can start to understand the different activities that children engage in online.

Finally, we need to understand that all games are not equal. For instance, Fortnite, which I’ve included a parent’s guide video for below, offers an online gaming experience that is different from other games. Both in terms of why it’s enjoyable and what to watch out for.

A new game that many children will say is basically the same as Fortnite is Apex Legends. However, for parents, this is quite a different proposition. Not only is it rated PEGI 16 as opposed to Fortnite’s PEGI 12 rating, but how you play and interact with other players is quite different. Again, I’ve included my video here so you can see in a few minutes what the differences are.

There are lots of great resources to help you keep online gaming same and healthy:

Andy Robertson
Freelance Journalist
Forbes, The Guardian, BBC, AskAboutGames, The Mirror, Telegraph, FamilyGamerTV