How often have we fallen into a situation where we trusted a photo, a post or an opinion on social networks? And then to feel ridiculous that we were too gullible and naive, not only believing something false, but also helping to spread it. Nowadays, when information spreads at an unimaginable speed, and we are literally overwhelmed by the flow of information, no one is insured that they will not fall into such a situation. In addition to adults, misinformation and its consequences are even more dangerous for school-age children and adolescents.

In 2022 the European Commission has issued a comprehensive document "Guidance for teachers and educators on tackling misinformation and promoting digital literacy through education and training". The document aims to help both teachers/tutors and students, regardless of stage of schooling or type of school, how to navigate the increasingly complex online environment where there is more to read, listen to and watch than ever before in history.

Within 40 pages, the document provides guidance for teachers without requiring them to be technology gurus themselves. The process is divided into before, during and after school, and the layout itself is shaped in colored boxes designed to facilitate readers - green boxes with practical tips for teaching and learning, blue boxes with plans for teaching activities, red boxes with warning notes, and orange boxes that provide other useful information. The document provides ideas that teachers and school leaders can consider and implement, promoting diversity alongside current events and trends, drawing on historically proven methods – e.g. The Socratic method of learning, learning through inquiry and problem solving, and various collaborative and learning methodologies. In addition to what disinformation means and why knowledge of this phenomenon is important, teachers receive guidance on how to assess the credibility of information and how to recognize and use legitimate sources. The guidelines offer clarification of terminology and key terms: what is false information, what is disinformation, and last but not least, what is malicious information (malinformation).

The team of experts who worked on the document highlights the limitation that providing guidance to promote digital literacy and tackle misinformation is not always an easy task due to the rapidly changing nature of technology, and the new possibilities of digital communications and media. The published guidelines do not offer solutions to all problems that may be encountered in the classroom, but emphasize the achievement of the following educational and training goals:

1) Provision of information and useful knowledge about the dynamics and manifestations of disinformation, as well as about the defining characteristics of reliable information;

2) Promoting understanding of how digital literacy can be achieved;

3) Sharing information on how to use digital technologies critically and responsibly;

4) Providing information on how students can be assessed on their digital literacy competencies.

Once students understand the definition of misinformation, questions often arise such as:

“Why do people create misinformation? What motivates them?".

With the help of the guidelines, teachers can help them find answers to these questions. Disinformation can appear in many contexts and on many different platforms. Some of it is specifically aimed at young people and aims to influence them. Some typical characteristics of disinformation are presented in the text:

  • Affects the emotions of the person to whom it is directed. This makes logical and critical thinking difficult;
  • Represents an attack on the opponent — promotes an "us vs. them" view of reality;
  • The facts in it are presented simply and taken out of context;
  • A given idea is repeated many times;
  • The nuances of the facts are ignored, presenting only one side of the story.
  • Images are manipulated in various ways, such as retouching and cropping;
  • Images are taken out of their original context and combined with other images, music/sounds and texts to give them new meaning;
  • Famous people and celebrities that the target group admires are used;
  • Cheap and deep fakes are increasingly used;
  • It is impervious to evidence that attempts to disprove it.

A key element of the document is understanding the different dimensions of disinformation – technical, ethical and economic aspects of disinformation, as well as some cognitive and emotional dimensions of this phenomenon. Understanding rapidly changing processes that can have a detrimental impact on young people is key to protecting them and building them as digitally, media and information literate individuals. Even more crucial is the creation of a teaching staff with knowledge and skills in the field of digital pedagogy.

The guidelines are available in several language versions, including Bulgarian and English.