NEW research by the University of York Management School says older people face challenges using the internet and identifying fake news.

Now, strategies to help address these issues and involve younger people in making the internet safer for all are to be discussed at a special event at the York Festival of Ideas next week.

The huge increase in people of all ages using online services during the pandemic is well documented, but new research from the school shows that despite using it more, many people still find the internet confusing. Many struggle to find what they are looking for and will often not trust the information they do find.

This is especially so with older people, many of whom are often left confused online when faced with the masses of information available, distracted by clickbait and frustrated by pop-up adverts.

While such distractions mean it often takes longer to find the information they seek, the research also shows that many older people simply stop their search due to frustration or uncertainty. This often leads to older people not being able to access information or services online at all.

The research, led by Dr Snehasish Banerjee and Dr Ariadne Kapetanaki, monitored the online activity of 28 older people, aged 66 and above, in the UK who said they had been using the internet more due to lockdown. The team followed this activity using screen capturing as well as interviewing the participants.

Dr Banerjee said: “Everyone faces many of the same frustrations online. But those less familiar with the internet seem to find these challenges harder to cope with.

“Many older people having to use the internet more in their day-to-day life, as was the case during the pandemic, lack the confidence to ignore adverts popping up on their screen or find that catchy headlines divert their attention away from what it is they are looking for.

“This makes it difficult for some to find what they are looking for.. But a bigger problem is the lack of trust many have in online information, and this needs to be addressed.”

The research also revealed younger people tend to help and guide older relatives in navigating challenges and distractions more easily and this is often because as they are more connected with other users and are more confident in finding the information they need.

Now, as part of this ongoing study funded by the British Academy, the University of York Management School is publishing an advice leaflet to help people deal with online threats and also help others, such as older people, use the internet better.

The researchers will also host an interactive session at the York Festival of Ideas on Tuesday June 14, in collaboration with York Explore and 100% Digital York. Details of this event can be found at :

“We want to bring the young and old together to discuss problems in using technology and offer insights into dealing with digital threats like misinformation, scams and clickbait,” Dr Kapetanaki said.

The researchers involved in this study will be on hand to discuss their findings and offer advice, while there will be hands-on activities to help people better distinguish between what is fake and what is genuine online.

“We want to help bolster people’s internet literacy and empower older people to use the internet with greater confidence, as well as showing younger people how they can support older people using the internet safely and get more out of it.

“We are hoping to involve schools at the event, too, and really get kids involved in understanding how they can help older people use the internet safely.

“We found that older people often lacked confidence or were worried about getting things wrong. This is a big problem, so we hope our study alerts people to the problems and brings all stakeholders together to help make the internet a better experience for all.”