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Hilal Kids English

Safeguarding ‘Generation Alpha’ in Pakistan Tackling Misinformation & Disinformation

May 2024

In today’s digitally interconnected world, children born as ‘Digital Natives’ in Pakistan, like other countries in the world, are increasingly exposed to a deluge of information, both accurate and misleading, through social media and internet – easily available on cell phones and laptops. The proliferation of misinformation and disinformation, particularly through known or unknown propaganda platforms, poses significant challenges, impacting not only the children’s cognitive development, health and studies, but also their personal character and overall socio-emotional wellbeing. 
What’s Misinformation & Disinformation?
Misinformation is a false or inaccurate information which is shared unintentionally, often due to ignorance or misunderstanding. Whereas, disinformation is deliberately spread with an intent to deceive a nation and its people. Both forms of false information thrive in the digital domain, fueled by clickbait headlines, sensationalized content, and echo chambers where users, especially children and youth, are exposed to information that aligns with their pre-existing beliefs.
Enemies of Pakistan
Pakistan’s enemy India and its collaborators are working day and night to spread false information with a malicious intent to damage our younger generation so that they may not be able to become healthy and useful citizens or leaders of  tomorrow. Recently, Pakistan has exposed Indian attempts made through “EU DisinfoLab”, “Indian Chronicles”, “Deepfakes”, “Modipost”, etc., by using popular social media apps and web portals. 
Target of Propaganda
India and its collaborators are spreading false information that aims at distorting history, for example that of the over 800 years of Muslim rule in the subcontinent. The enemies are also spreading false and propaganda-based information regarding Pakistan Armed Forces, and other security agencies. 
Influence and Implications
The question is what is the pervasive influence of “Misinformation & Disinformation” on children relating to ‘Generation Alpha’ in Pakistan, and what are its implications? And the obvious question is how consequently we tackle this challenge, and what measures should we adopt and follow in order to mitigate or minimize the harmful effects of such propaganda?
Popular Apps Spreading Misinformation & Disinformation
Well, in Pakistan, social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, and TikTok are immensely popular amongst the ‘Alpha’ children (the generation born after 2008), and ‘Generation Z’ adolescents (born before 2008). While, on one hand, these popular apps offer opportunities for learning, socializing, and self-expression, at the same time these platforms also serve as breeding grounds for misinformation & disinformation.
Impact on ‘Alpha’ Children
The impact of misinformation and disinformation on children in Pakistan is multifaceted. Firstly, it hampers their ability to discern fact from fiction. It also undermines their critical thinking skills. Secondly, their exposure to false information can lead to misconceptions, confusion, and a distorted worldview.
    Moreover, misinformation and disinformation can exacerbate social tensions and fuel conflict, especially in a diverse country like Pakistan with ethnic, religious, and linguistic diversity. Children relating to ‘Generation Alpha’ and youth relating to ‘Generation Z’ may unwittingly perpetuate stereotypes, prejudices, and misinformation towards polarizing the society. Furthermore, the consumption of false information can have detrimental effects on children’s physical and mental health. Exposure to alarming or distressing content, such as fake news about natural disasters, terrorist attacks, or health crises, can induce fear, anxiety, and stress.
Challenges in Combating Misinformation & Disinformation
Addressing the scourge of ‘Misinformation & Disinformation’ among children in Pakistan is fraught with multiple challenges. Firstly, the rapid proliferation of digital technologies has outpaced regulatory frameworks and educational initiatives aimed at promoting digital literacy and media literacy. Secondly, the viral nature of social media amplifies the spread of false information, making it difficult to contain. Additionally, the lack of media literacy education in schools and households exacerbates the problem. Many children lack the skills to critically evaluate online content, discern credible sources, and fact-check information.
Pakistanis – A Resilient & Intelligent Nation
However, there is nothing to be worried about. Pakistanis are considered worldwide as a very intelligent and resilient nation. Likewise, the children relating to both ‘Generation Alpha’ and ‘Generation Z’ are far more intelligent than their previous generations. Our children are taking lead in modern-day education and technology. Especially, they are taking distinctions in Artificial Intelligence, Microsoft or Google industries, and software or hardware engineering, as well as other digital domains – from universities around the world.
    Our brave, resilient and vibrant nation in the past has faced an enormous number of challenges, threats and dangers posed by the enemies. Hopefully, this nation and specifically its younger generation is capable of deterring any kind of onslaught unleashed by the enemies, in the social media or internet domain. 
What Needs to Be Done?
To combat the spread of misinformation and disinformation among children in Pakistan, we require a multi-faceted approach involving the state, government, civil society, our intelligentsia, teachers, parents, and technology companies.
    By adopting a comprehensive strategy that addresses the root causes of misinformation and disinformation while empowering children with the necessary skills and knowledge to navigate the digital landscape safely, Pakistan can safeguard its future generations from the pernicious effects of false information.
    Following areas need to play their proactive role towards tackling malicious propaganda through coordinated ‘misinformation & disinformation’ campaigns:
Digital Literacy Education: We need to integrate digital literacy and media literacy education into the school curriculum, teaching children how to critically evaluate online content, identify credible sources, and fact-check information.
Parental Guidance: Parents need to proactively engage with the children’s online activities, educate them about the risks of misinformation and disinformation, and teach them as to how to become responsible digital citizens.
Regulatory Measures: The government needs to enforce existing laws and regulations governing social media platforms and the harmful content on it, to curb the spread of false information. It needs to have check on open or hidden propaganda platforms, and make them responsible for moderating content, combating misinformation, and promoting transparency.
Media Literacy Campaigns: The civil society needs to join hands together and launch nationwide public awareness campaigns aimed at raising awareness about the dangers of misinformation. It also needs to empower people, especially youth and children, to become critical consumers of online information.
Collaboration with Tech Companies: Our technology companies need to develop and implement tools and algorithms that prioritize accuracy and credibility over sensationalism and virality. These companies need to promote media literacy features within social media platforms in order to help the children to identify false information.
Fact-Checking Initiatives: We need to support independent fact-checking groups or organizations, and initiatives to debunk false information and provide accurate, evidence-based information to the public.
Community Engagement: Our intelligentsia, teachers and both print and electronic media need to take community-based initiatives that promote dialogue, critical thinking, and digital literacy skills among children and adolescents.
    By taking such measures, it is possible to mitigate the harmful effects of false information and foster a more informed, resilient, and digitally literate generation. Pakistani children and youth are fully capable of doing this job with full dedication and commitment. Let’s do it. 


 

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