LIRNEasia study seeks solutions for adolescents vulnerable to information disorder

Posted on March 3, 2024  /  0 Comments

In response to the alarming surge of information disorder affecting online platforms, LIRNEasia is exploring to provide evidence-based recommendations to policymakers on how best to equip Sri Lankan early adolescence with skills to navigate the digital world safely and responsibly. This is through a two-year research project on digital literacy among Sri Lankan adolescents aged 11 to 18.

In partnership with Sarvodaya Fusion, LIRNEasia is taking an experimental approach, using qualitative methods. This initiative involves the comparison of two cohorts of early adolescents with varied demographics, including language and sectors like urban, rural, and estate. While one group undergoes intensive digital literacy training, the other serves as a control group without such training. This approach underscores the significance of diversity across demographic factors in assessing the effectiveness of digital literacy interventions.

From February 16-18, LIRNEasia conducted data collection in Monaragala district to address key questions concerning early adolescents’ internet behaviour and their ability to identify misinformation. This data collection took place at Sarvodaya’s district centre in Wellawaya. Prior to this, similar activities were conducted in Colombo district. Further, one-on-one interviews were conducted by LIRNEasia with parents while their kids participated in a training provided by Sarvodaya Fusion, aimed at teaching them how to navigate the internet responsibly and ethically.

Students learned techniques like lateral reading, reverse image search, checking sources, and corroborating claims made in viral posts. Their ability to identify real vs fake news is tested before and after the training.

Our research project seeks to address two key questions: Firstly, how are actors and organisations working to reduce the spread of misinformation, and how effective are their efforts perceived to be? Secondly, what factors influence vulnerability to online falsehoods, and what strategies can enhance resilience against misinformation?

To achieve these goals, our research will investigate:

– The correlation between demographic variables such as age, ethnicity, language, and urban/rural/estate residence, and susceptibility to online misinformation.

– The relationship between digital literacy levels and resistance to misinformation.

– The effectiveness of digital literacy initiatives in combating misinformation among teenagers.

– How does the susceptibility to misinformation among early adolescents evolve over time following participation in training programme.

By tracking these adolescents over the next year with further discussions and assessments, LIRNEasia aims to provide policymakers and educators evidence-based solutions to prepare the next generation to thrive in an increasingly digital world.

Glimpses of the Colombo programme

Photos courtesy: Sarvodaya Fusion

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