This is an informative article, not political. Though the term Fake News has only recently come into common use, manipulative media has been a problem for decades. The digital era simply makes distinguishing real from fake news more challenging. A presidential election year is a good time to address the topic of fake news vs. real news for students.
Students and people everywhere are exposed to multiple online news sources, including social media feeds on TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter – all of which have their own slant on how to tell the news. With all these sources spewing information at us all day long, distinguishing real news from fake news can be a challenge. However, it’s also a necessity for those trying to determine what is actually happening in the world.
In the current climate, the truth is hard to separate from fiction. However, there are strategies you can teach students to help them distinguish between the two.
Tips to Help Your Teen Avoid Fake News
One of the first things to teach teens how to distinguish between fake news and real news is by explaining what sources are authentic. Many people believe the New York Times is a much different and more trustworthy source than the New York Post, but kids might not immediately see the difference.
Knowing who they are reading is just the first step. Here are some key tips to help students determine fact from fiction when it comes to the digital news cycle.
Don’t Be Fooled by Media Bias
Unbiased news does not exist. Check out this chart from AllSides to see what bias these popular news media sites are reporting from.
Check the Date and Place of Publication
Sadly, many outlets will use dated stories or articles from other countries to get more clicks. Teach students to ask when an article is written and from what area did the info originate. For example, a recent video of children forced to participate in a religious ceremony was making the rounds on social media, only for it to be discovered that not only was no one being forced, but it also wasn’t in the United States. Likewise, information from the wrong time period can be misinterpreted if students assume it happened recently.
Verify the Data
Even when a source uses technical language or promises validity, it’s a good idea to verify the information against other sources. Double-check the information you find with credible news sources.
Scan for Real Information
Too much fluff in an article could be a red flag of false or exaggerated information. A credible news story will include facts, quotes, or data obtained from surveying a large sample and statistics. Explain to students how trustworthy news sources will have data to back up their claims.
Find the Writer/Contributor
An article with no name is a flag that the news is fake. A credible news source will have a writer’s name along with their credentials. While they may not be an expert in the industry (and that’s another thing that’s worth checking), just signing off on an article with a name is an important step.
Inspect the Images
Images can easily be edited or manipulated to look real. If taken out of context, a picture alone could make fake news seem real. Determining the authenticity of a photo can be difficult. Even a real photo could be a false portrayal of the subject. Look carefully and check for copyrights. If the image is particularly inflammatory, go back to step 3 and determine if that image exists anywhere else. Here are a few helpful sites about this. How to Spot Fake Photos, 3 Ways To Find Original Images, Verify Photos, And Fake News
Inspect Before You Share
Unfortunately, fake news isn’t going away any time soon. Giving students the tools they need to spot it can boost their digital literacy and help them determine what’s real from what isn’t. Before you “like,” comment, share or send news you read, take time to fact check and you will soon become an expert at spotting questionable information a mile away. Be smart, savvy, and stay alert!