Can Your Kids Spot Fake News? Tips for Media-Savvy Kids

Let’s face it... Current affairs are getting way more mindshare these days with people of every age. If there is a hot topic out there, you can expect about a trillion memes, loads of opinions, and misinterpretations to go along with it. Everyone has an opinion. Everyone is an expert. And everyone is producing new content on a daily basis – much of which has been distorted or is simply groundless.

If your kids have online access, they’re probably seeing some form of “news” on their social media outlets. Most of which hasn’t been verified or fact checked. If your kids aren’t on social media, don’t consider them immune. The playground is a boiling pot of all the misinformation, exaggerations, and downright baseless data kids consume and then regurgitate with a new version of the story popping up every minute. Ever played Telephone?

And the sad truth is… the more sensational, frightening, or salacious the information they get, the more it will be passed around. On the playground, war with Korea has already started.

So how are our kids supposed to make sense of what the news really is?

This Just In…

Common Sense Media released a survey that was conducted in January of 2017 that included 853 children between the ages of 10 to 18 from across the United States, as well as an oversample of African-American and Hispanic/Latino children drawn from an opt-in web panel. It may sound surprising, but 48 percent of kids actually said the news is important to them. Kids said that reading or watching the news helps them feel smarter and more knowledgeable. Unfortunately, not all news is positive. In fact, 63 percent said the news made them angry, sad, depressed and afraid.

Media Literacy

Media literacy isn’t a one-time, sit-down lesson. It is an ongoing process that is best learned during everyday activities. The goal is to show your kids how to identify different types of media, (like trusted sources or clickbait) and how to discern the messages that a specific media outlet is sending. With younger kids, you can start off by talking about things like toy commercials, cereal packages, and the shows they watch on TV. Tweens and teens love YouTube videos, Instagram, Snapchat, viral memes, and video games. You may not be interested or find it entertaining (or maybe you do), but they definitely do. You can use these opportunities to mentor and teach discernment.

Teaching Discernment

Kids are going to soak up everything they watch, read, or hear – whether it is through a mindful process or just a mindless one. Their searches, buying habits, and personal tastes are all being monitored by web companies. All this info limits our exposure to information that may differ from the political, social, religious and other world views we have. Essentially, we see what we want to see because of this filtering. With that in mind, it’s a good idea to have your kids ask themselves these questions to help teach them how to have a discerning eye.

  • Who created this article/image/video? A news source? An individual? A company?
  • Why did they make it? Is it “sponsored content” or “clickbait?” Is it something motivational, or does it make you laugh? Is it a how-to video? Is it a news story? What kind of message are they sending?
  • Who is the message for? Is it aimed at a specific group of people? Is it for teens? Is it for adults? How do you decipher who it is for?
  • Is the message from a reporter, individual, or celebrity? Does the message have varying views, or is it one-sided? Are experts quoted or cited?
  • How does the message make you feel? Are you scared, angry, motivated to change something, or just entertained?

Fake News

According to a 2015 Media Insight Project study, nine out of ten teens get their news from Facebook. Considering the research from a recent Stanford study that 80 percent of middle schoolers couldn’t tell the difference between an advertisement and an article, we need to guide our kids in knowing what is real and fake. Heck, even some adults are fooled by news posts on Facebook. Take the post about former President Obama signing an executive order to ban the pledge of allegiance in schools – it had two million interactions, including sharing – yet it was false.

Teach your kids to conduct a search on every bit of information they find incites a big emotional reaction. By going through a deeper search, they may discover that the information was created just to incite anger or other emotions but is unfounded. Or, they may find a different perspective to the same story that explains the topic a bit further. When it comes to quotes from experts, teach your kids to do a quick search on the person quote. What’s their stance? Do they have certain interests to promote? What position are they coming from? The big lesson here is to first verify, then parse.

Little Ears, Little Eyes

Kids are paying attention to how we interact with media. Be mindful of how you react. Don’t just blurt out things like “That bill congress just signed is going to ruin everything,” without explaining why. Be specific about why you are concerned, or why you decided to comment or share something on your social media outlet. Try to hold back your own big emotional reactions and instead, practice thoughtful rumination and open discussion over knee-jerk reactions. As you openly discuss the topic at hand, you may find that your initial reaction isn’t in line with what you actually believe in hindsight.

The Modern Playground

The internet is the modern playground and we’re all contributors to what’s going on there. Even if your child is too young to be a content creator, they play a role in the dissemination of information with every like, comment, and share. Just as you would teach your children not to spread rumors about so-and-so on the school playground, you have to teach them to be wary of how they react and the role they play in giving online content its legitimacy.

How do you plan on teaching your kids media literacy? Share your advice with us!

Tags : education   life lessons   Internet   

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