Years ago, we received news via newspapers and television networks. Journalists and broadcasters went to school to learn how to gather information and check sources before publishing or sending out the information on the six o’clock news (well, they still do that). We trusted that the news we got came from reliable sources. Today, we receive news in so many ways, even through online sources and social media. Anyone is able to create and publish information online and call it news. For example, after the Boston Marathon bombing, it was reported that some runners kept running all the way to the hospital to donate blood for the victims. Not true. So how do we know if what we hear or read is factual or fake?
There was a funny commercial a few years ago where the characters joked that if something is on the internet then it must be true because “they” can’t put anything on the internet that isn’t true (see video below). Hmmm. The commercial was poking fun at people who may believe all things on the Internet are true. We know that’s not the case. Being able to separate what’s true from what’s not online, especially in regards to news, is an important skill for people today, even kids.
Kids are often online, whether for homework or just staying connected to their friends. By helping them develop the media literacy skills necessary to spot fake news, you will be empowering them to be critical thinkers. As you talk to them about fake news, you might want to do the activity suggested by Common Sense Media together as a family and then talk about your discoveries. Choose some news to read about or watch online. When you do, ask your kids some age-appropriate questions about the source of the news and whether or not they think it is legitimate. Here are some starters:
- Who is the author of the information?
- What kind of website is the information coming from? Is it an official news site or a social media site?
- What is the web address (URL)?
- Are there other mainstream news sources giving the same information?
- Are there grammatical errors, all caps, or misspelled words in the information?
- Does the site give you other places to go for more information on the topic?
- Click on “about us” to find out who supports the site or is associated with it.
This exercise empowers both you and your kids to pause before believing everything that is declared news.
For the full article on helping kids spot fake news from Common Sense Media, click here.