The internet is an invaluable learning resource: its informational capacity is unparalleled. Yet, with something as vast and widely accessible as the internet, it can be challenging for parents and educators to control or regulate where young people receive information from. This can cause children to trust unreliable sources and believe fake news.
Fake news is not a new phenomenon: we all grew up seeing magazine covers promoting some outrageous new celebrity affair allegation or shock pregnancy. Eventually we learned to take the information contained within women’s magazines with a grain of salt. Yet, nowadays, the internet enables input from billions of users throughout the world, which means that the scope of fake news has broadened significantly. The danger of today’s children being exposed to fake news stories is that the misinformation provided can contain unfounded character defamation, serious political allegations, and all sorts of other harmful ideologies.
Teaching Kids How To Recognise Fake News
When it comes to teaching your children how to recognise fake news, you should start the conversation with some examples of reputable news sources. A reliable news source should only provide news that is objective and unbiased. What this means is that while the site’s contributors might have a known political stance, this should not impact the stories they choose to tell, or the ones they choose not to tell. Some great International examples include the BBC and CNN.
It’s also worth talking to older children about clickbait, which refers to web content that is specifically designed to generate click-through revenue. Sensationalised, enigmatic, and irresistible headlines often cultivate a social media frenzy, but the content’s mass appeal often comes at the expense of its quality and accuracy. Show your child an example of clickbait and ask them if they think the information is credible.
In an article written by Families for Life, parents are advised to go through a collaborative exercise with their children which entails comparing a reliable news source and a fake news site. Parents should ask their children to identify the differences they see.
According to the experts at Common Sense Media, parents should also encourage their children to ask the following questions each time they encounter a piece of media:
Who made this?
Who is the target audience?
Who paid for this? Or, 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)?
Joanne Orlando, a technology and learning researcher at Western Sydney University, also advises parents to understand ‘the rules’ that many websites are now choosing to comply with, “Many social media sites are now also cracking down on (and penalising) the spread of fake news. Showing kids the restrictions these sites are imposing on their users will help them get a rounded understanding of the problem”.
Teaching children how to recognise fake news will go a long way in helping them with their digital literacy skills. To learn more about digital literacy and how it ties in with digital resilience, check out our article: Building resilience in children: Surviving in a digital world.