Fictitious Feeds: How To Help Your Kids Spot Fake News

Most people in this country can agree on the fact that we have a problem with fake news. We just can’t agree on who is doing the faking. Plus, there are many things happening that we wish were fake, but that’s another story. What we do know is that we’ve got to get some perspective on this, especially since our kids are mostly getting their news from social media sites. And, even though, Facebook and Google are starting to monitor fake news, they still have a long way to go. So, we thought we’d give you some tips to share with your children on how to spot those fictitious feeds.

According to Common Sense Media, who credits Project Look Sharp for the following questions, here are some important things to ask yourself when looking at a news article:

  • 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)?

Project Look Sharp, by the way, is a media literacy program out of Ithaca College, “that  develops and provides lesson plans, media materials, training, and support for the effective integration of media literacy with critical thinking into classroom curricula at all education levels.”

Nice work Project Look Sharp! We could all use more critical thinking skills!

Speaking of critical thinking skills, Common Sense Media offers some additional tips on spotting fake news, particularly aimed at older kids:

  • Pay attention to URL names. These can help you decipher where a story originated. For example, if the URL ends with “.co” it may be an illegitimate site. Additionally, if you think you are reading a story from “The New York Times,” for example, the URL should read “www.nytimes.com.” If it reads something like “www.nynyny.com,” you know something’s wrong.
  • Are there major typos or grammatical errors in the piece? This could be a sign that what you are reading isn’t quite right. An honorable news site should have an editor!
  • Look into a website’s “About Us,” section. Who supports the site? Who is associated with it? If these answers aren’t easily attained, something fishy may be going on. (P.S. there is actually a website called something-fishy.org, which isn’t actually fishy at all. It’s a wonderful site dedicated to helping people with eating disorders).
  • Check Snopes, Wikipidea, and Google to see if those sources corroborate what you are reading.
  • Are other news outlets reporting the same thing? If not, your site may just be first, or, they may be reporting irresponsibly.
  • Finally, and perhaps most importantly, check how what you are reading makes you feel. Fake news sites are notorious for trying to elicit extreme emotions. If you find yourself feeling very agitated by something that you are reading, consider checking multiple sources to determine if it is legit. And whatever you do, don’t share it until you are sure of it’s veracity.

If you’d like to learn more about how to talk with your kids about fake news, or anything at all, contact us. We are here to help!

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