Everything is a house hippo

Rebecca Stanisic

Remember the house hippo? The beloved mini creature who lived in Canadian homes? Or at least, that’s what we were told years ago as part of a Concerned Children's Advertisers campaign to help kids think critically about what they were seeing on TV.  

The house hippo came back in 2019, thanks to MediaSmarts, and even recently showed up as the star of an April Fools’ Day joke along with the Canadian Museum of Nature.  

The house hippo was a part of many of our childhoods (if you are a certain age). The message has been modernized but is no less important. Now, it’s bringing awareness to #BreakTheFake and teach kids about digital media literacy.  

Image of a House Hippo

But what happens when it feels like we live in an age where everything is like the house hippo? Either too good to be true or just incorrect. Misinformation is running rampant online, and with the advancements of AI, images and text can be faked. Video and voices can be faked or altered. This is changing everything.  

I became a teen at a time when the internet was quickly advancing and yet I’m not sure there’s been a more critical time for digital media literacy.  

We can look at the house hippo with love and a good sense of humour – its playfulness feels harmless compared to what else is being faked online, but it serves as a reminder to be mindful of what we, and our children, are consuming in the media.  

Having open conversations with our kids about what everyone is seeing online can help, but it’s not just our children who are being duped. Adults are too. We need to be mindful of what we consume and the sources of our information. And while the house hippo is a good reminder not to trust everything we see, we also need to learn – and to teach our kids – how to identify information that is true and sources that can be trusted.  

I don’t feel as though it’s getting better or easier to navigate misinformation online. I don’t have the answers, but it’s evolving, quickly, and education is a great starting point.  

If you are looking for resources to help the entire family check out Break the Fake for tips!