In an era of Photoshop and viral stories on social media, it can be difficult to separate the real news and real images from the fake ones. (See the photoshopped image above for an example!) According to a recent Stanford study, as many as 90% of young people have difficulty determining fake news from real news. Many couldn't tell a verified news source from a fake news source on Facebook. Others couldn't tell the difference between native advertisements and actual news articles.
Furthermore, many young people are getting their news from social media, where flashy, but often inaccurate, headlines and sensational click bait reign.
That leaves it to us parents to help our children navigate a tangly web of news sources and images.
To help your kids spot fake news, it's important to read the news with them and talk to them about what you're reading. Let them know it's okay to talk to you about what they're reading in case they stumble upon something they are unsure or concerned about.
Secondly, model critical thinking skills for them. Sierra Filucci of Common Sense Media recommends that you encourage your children to ask the following questions when reading the news:
Who made this?
Who is the target audience?
Who paid for this?
Who gets paid if you click on this?
Who might benefit or be harmed by this message?
What is left out of this message that might be important?
Is this credible (and what makes you think that)?
Are multiple credible sources reporting it?
For older kids, introduce them to the idea that their searches and social media news feeds are filtered to match their worldview, not to challenge it.
You can also teach them some of the following tricks for spotting fake news:
Look for terms like "sponsored content"
Look for unusual URLs, including those that end with "lo" or ".com.co" - these are usually fake news sites.
Look for words in all caps, glaring grammatical errors, bold claims with no sources, and sensationalist images (often attractive women)
Check a site's "About Us" section. Often it doesn't exist on fake news sites, or they require you to register before you can learn more information.
Check Snopes, Wikipedia, and Google before trusting or sharing news that seems too good (or bad) to be true.
Finally, check your emotions. Alina Adams of Kveller writes:
"If you read a story that absolutely confirms every worldview you have, makes the people you hate look bad, the ones you admire look good, and at long last reveals controversial details you’ve always suspected—it’s fake news. Guaranteed. Because real life just isn’t that easy."
And if your child does get duped by a fake news story, it's important not to make them feel dumb. Talk to them about a time your were fooled and use it as a learning opportunity.
For more information about helping kids become media savvy, head to Project Look Sharp.