You must have heard about ‘fake news’. Social media is an excellent rumour machine that frequently reports on fictional situations and shares inaccurate facts. But how good are your kids at spotting what’s the real thing and what is fake news?
Given all the issues that have recently made the international news about social media and trust, it’s important to teach your kids not to just take something as true, because a friend has shared it on Facebook.
What is fake news?
Fake News is information that is NOT TRUE, but a person or organisation has spread this information to influence decisions that people take, either for commercial gain or political advantage.
The trust issue
Humans are emotionally-driven beings and it’s easy to take on board something a friend has said as being true. But where did that friend hear the fact or information from? The chances are there’s a long chain for any piece of information that has been passed on, shared, liked and has become ‘true’ in the process.
It’s particularly difficult to weed out what’s true and what isn’t, when world leaders bandy the ‘fake news’ accusation about.
As young adults, teenagers are beginning to form their world view. This is influenced by their upbringing, their schooling, their friends and what they hear and see in the media – from the newspapers to all the online feeds. It can be hard for them to be objective in the face of influence from their friends at school and online.
The importance of research
Every good journalist knows that their articles depend on sound research. They won’t last long if they can’t support the information that they write. Teach your kids journalist skills!
Teach them not to take things at face value, but do their own research. It’s easy with access to the internet. They should be looking at what the known authorities say about the issue, whether that’s respectable news sources like the national dailies, the BBC news channel or independent experts on the subject.
Teach them to question – there are some very unlikely facts that are accurate and, equally, some very believable facts that are untrue. It’s not that you should teach them to be cynical and negative, but more to instil a healthy curiosity as to where the information comes from.
True facts usually have evidence – and they’ll develop excellent research skills if they get smart at knowing how to check this out. When they go on to further education they’ll already have one of the essential skills to ensure their work is underpinned by substantial evidence.