You’ve probably seen it on Facebook. Someone posts a “news” story that is shocking, maybe scary, but definitely something that you’re going to click on to read. But … unless it’s coming from a credible news source like major news organizations, magazines, newspapers or TV news programs, there’s a chance that the information isn’t accurate. It’s fake news.
Fake news isn’t a new phenomena, but thanks to social media and the growing conversation about it in mainstream media, it’s become a major issue. And, with young people — especially teenagers — who want to be informed, it isn’t always easy to navigate what is and is not real news. When teens receive information that is fake and troublesome, feelings of fear, depression, hopelessness and anger can brew.
Social media plays a role in spreading fake news
“What’s real, what’s not?,” asks Families Online. “With the younger generation’s constant exposure to the deluge of information found online, knowing how to sift out the truth from what’s fake new(s) is crucial.”
People are going beyond what, in the past, would have been considered scary and dangerous to post words and images that invoke fear, confusion, and panic in others. Ideas, messages and images, can be sent at speeds unimaginable to an audience size once thought impossible. This makes controlling and tracking information a challenge.
Social media platforms fight to combat fake news
Since late 2016, Facebook began outsourcing fact checkers to review flagged articles are correct … but it isn’t without its problems, namely that there simply aren’t enough people (or budget) to check every single piece of news flagged as fake. There is also the issue of wanting to be on the cutting edge of any news story, no matter what the cost to the reader.
Other platforms like YouTube, Instagram and Twitter all have plans in the works to investigate news and inflammatory videos which promote anxiety and fear. But, it’s not enough.
Tips for parents to help kids avoid fake news
The Digital Citizen Academy Home Program teaches kids and families how to navigate and understand fake news. We’ve identified some key tips for parents to help children from getting caught up in fake news and having it impact their health negatively.
- Identify trustworthy and well-known news sources with your child and then review news stories together to decide if the information is real or fake. Comparing coverage in a few publications on the same stories can help determine whether or not the news is real. If coverage isn’t the same (say you compare The Washington Post coverage of something to a blogger’s), discuss what’s different.
- Take time to review fake news sites with your children. A quick Google search can help identify websites which are deemed to be fake news. Before you show these sites to your children, make sure the content on them doesn’t feature anything you aren’t comfortable showing them.
- If your children are older, explain some key terms to them. The three which DCA thinks are the most important are:
- Clickbait — attention-grabbing headlines used for Web content to lure readers into clicking on normally uninteresting content. Example: You won’t believe what this celeb did last night. Reality: This extra from Game of Thrones ate dinner at In ‘N Out.
- Internet hoaxes — often intended as a practical joke, cause to embarrass someone, provoke fear or a social or political change in an effort to become viral. Example: The Momo Challenge
- Gullibility — being vulnerable to false online information, hoaxes or other online information
- Talk about emotions and feelings that are brought up when reading fake news and real news.
- Explain politics to your children. The current political landscape, in combination with a lack of oversight from any regulation, means it is a breeding ground for fake news. Politicians easily can manipulate credible information to persuade the population to vote for them.
Want to know more ways to help your children identify and avoid fake news? Our Home Program offers valuable information that is only a click away.