The eSafety charity, Childnet, has launched Trust Me, a resource pack for primary and secondary schools aimed to develop pupils’ critical thinking skills while online.

The free Trust Me resource which has been developed in partnership with the London Grid for Learning (LGfL), is intended to be used as part of PHSE and Digital Literacy lessons in order to build up pupils’ abilities to think critically and analyse information they are using online.

Based around the idea of trust, Trust Me provides young people with online examples for them to work through, and aims to provoke discussion among pupils to allow them to reflect on motives and agendas behind what they see and who they speak to online.

By utilising a series of lesson plans involving classroom discussions relating to online content, contact and propaganda/media, and social media literacy, pupils and teachers will be able to discuss questions ranging from, “How can we know if a website is trustworthy?” to, “Why and how might someone gain your trust online?”

Trust Me is fundamentally designed to give teachers the tools they need to educate young people to be critical thinkers and build up their resilience while online. Childnet and LGfE have developed the resource to address the emerging area of online extremism and propaganda, and to help pupils to challenge what they see online.

Will Gardner, CEO of Childnet, said:

“We want to encourage young people to ask questions about what they see and experience online and Trust Me gives young people the language that will help them to do this.”

In a digital climate where people’s perceptions of the world are gathered through information they see and read online, in the media, and on social media, Childnet aims to equip the new generation of digital citizens with the skills to assess and think about the information they are presented with in order to navigate the potential online risks.

More recently, the major issue surrounding the role the internet and social media plays in online extremism has highlighted the need for discussion and ongoing dialogue that ensures young people are critically analysing everything they see.

During the piloting of the resource, Juliette Hendry, Head of Citizenship at Elizabeth Garrett Anderson School, told Childnet:

“In an age where young people are more and more likely to look for answers to their questions via social media, Trust Me provides an invaluable resource that aims to develop critical thinking skills. Trust Me is interactive, engaging, and challenges how we form our ways of thinking through digital media. It really gets to the heart of how the internet works. I would not hesitate to recommend its use in PHSE lessons at KS3 and KS4.”

At the launch of Trust Me last month, educators were given the opportunity to explore the teaching packs and were guided through the mocked-up examples of websites and social media posts for young people, along with several practical activities.

An expert panel held a discussion about the importance of critical thinking and included speeches by young people who told the audience about their own experiences around content they see online and how they and their peers make judgements about the information.

One delegate at the launch commented that “The event was great for reassurance and guidance in a changing online landscape”, with another adding that “The launch and event gave me a new way in which to help young people understand the damages they face online as well as methods to help teachers teach these lessons.”

John Jackson, CEO of LGfL, said:

“LGfL takes online safety very seriously, and through the work of its Safeguarding Board, is constantly striving to source, recommend and develop resources that help schools in this important area. We are delighted to have had the opportunity for another partnership with Childnet.”

Primary and secondary Trust Me resource packs can be downloaded here.