11-14 year olds

According to Ofcom, 83% of 12-15 year olds have their own smartphone meaning access to social media, search engines, news and more is readily available at the tips of their fingers. Because of the wealth of information available to them, it would be unreasonable to expect teenagers this age to think critically and in depth about everything they see and hear online. They are likely to recognise that not everything they see or hear online is true, but often lack the time, resolve and intuition to know when and where they should stop and critically assess the information they find. 11-14s need to understand in which situations critical thinking is particularly important and what actions they can take when they see or hear things that don’t seem trustworthy.

What should critical thinking look like for young people aged 11-14?



To help identify situations where critical thinking is particularly important, 11-14 year olds should be encouraged to think about what they are using information for. Do they plan on sharing it further? Are they changing their behaviour as a result of what they’ve seen?  In these situations especially, they should consider:

  1. Where did the information come from originally?
  2. What message is it conveying?
  3. What is its purpose?
  4. Does it fit with their prior knowledge?
  5. Do other sources say the same thing or offer another perspective?

Once they’ve determined if something is inaccurate or unreliable online, 11-14s can consider a range of further actions they might take to help prevent further dissemination. Depending on the extent of their mistrust of the content, and whether they believe it could be harmful to themselves or others, they could consider:

  • Not sharing it further
  • Reporting it online
  • Speaking to an adult they trust
  • Spreading the word that it can’t be trusted.

Top Tips to share with children aged 11-14

  1. Not everything online is either ‘true’ or ‘fake’.
    Fact or opinion? Maybe a mixture of both! Many stories and posts began with trustworthy information, which became added to,  exaggerated or distorted once online. Equally, seemingly accurate and reliable content, may contain small errors or untruths, whether accidental or purposeful. 
  2. Consider the source and purpose.
    Where has this information come from and do we have reason to trust it? Has it come from an expert or has it come from someone who has something to gain by getting us to believe what they’re saying? (E.g. An advert will always want to make the product being sold sound good, to convince us we want to buy it!)
  3. Consider your prior knowledge.
    What do we already know about this subject? Does what we’re seeing online match-up with this? Or does it say something different and unexpected? Do we actually know enough about this subject to be able to make an accurate judgement on its reliability? 
  4. Do some further research.
    there’s lots of information out there so let’s see what else we can find on this subject. Check another website, watch another video or maybe even find a book on the same topic. The more sources that seem to say the same thing, and the more reliable those sources, the more confident we can be that the information can be trusted!
  5. Take action against unreliable information online.
    it can be tough to know what to trust online, especially when there’s so much misinformation out there. When we do find something inaccurate, the last thing we want to do is spread it further – consider reporting it, or letting friends and family know it can’t be trusted. Maybe leave a comment, but don’t share it on!

Conversation starter ideas

  1. What do you use the internet for and where do you find information online?
  2. How do you decide if you can trust something online?
  3. What steps can you take to find reliable information online?
  4. What would you do if you saw someone sharing something fake or unreliable online?
  5. Who can help you if you see something online that you’re not sure about?