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How Do I Teach My Kid About Clickbait?

Q&A

Clickbait is content designed to influence you to visit a page, video, or image online. They usually have outrageous and misleading headlines, scripts, or images. This kind of content is hard enough for adults to resist. It can be even harder for kids, who are still developing the skills to stay focused and consider the consequences of their actions.

Many platforms use a clickbait strategy to make money. This is because ad networks allow apps and websites to earn money from the number of views that their ads receive. Their business model encourages ad-supported networks to create clickbait content. The more shocking the story, the more views they collect, and the more money they make. This can also spread misinformation, fake news, and propaganda.

When kids and teens understand the techniques of clickbait, they can resist the pull of outrageous stories, stay on task, and avoid fake news. Here are some clues to help kids identify clickbait:

  • Headlines and scripts. Sensational language and bold claims ("You won't believe what happened next!") are red flags that a story is clickbait.
  • "Make money at home" schemes. If it promises that you can make money without even lifting a finger, it's likely to be a scam.
  • Questionable photos and GIFs. Be skeptical of content that has images of nude bodies, diseases, wild or overly simple political claims, and distorted pictures—and of AI-generated pictures and videos trying to pass as real.
  • Contests and gimmicks. Slogans such as "Share this!" or "You've Won!" generally want you to give away your personal information. They may also have malware that can damage your device.

You can also encourage your kids to notice their feelings and practice critical thinking:

  • Feelings before. Before you follow a link or watch something, think about what the words are asking you to do and why. Pausing for a bit can slow the impulse to tap without thinking.
  • Feelings after. You can't always avoid clickbait. If you do end up checking it out, ask yourself questions about what you saw and how it made you feel. And if you see suspicious content, make sure to block and report it.
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