By teaching kids to weed out fake news, you’re also training them to be critical thinkers.
Last week, Facebook made headlines for its new feature to stem the tide of fake news—a warning label appended to dubious news stories, informing readers that these stories have been disputed by sources such as Snopes.
It’s not a foolproof solution, as some have questioned the credibility and methods employed by the fact-checking sites. But it is a start, and a useful one for parents whose children are already on Facebook. Here are more ways to help your children become discerning news consumers.
#1 Use a checklist.
Project Look Sharp, a media literacy initiative by Ithaca College in the US, has a downloadable checklist of questions, focusing on authority (who wrote/sponsored this?), accuracy (is this information reliable?), objectivity (is there persuasion or advertising involved?), currency (how current is this information?), and coverage (superficial or in-depth?).
#2 Stay alert.
Misleading stories come in many guises: Old stories can be resurrected to stir up emotions and fears, pictures can be doctored to support a fabricated story, and headlines can be written as clickbait. Use this list of red flags with your child, and search for examples of fake news together.
#3 Track the information flow.
If your child is repeating a new fact that he or she has come across, talk about the source of this information—was it forwarded by a friend? Try to trace this information back to the creator of the content. At Pace University in the US, some students were tasked to keep a “Backtrack Journal,” which you can read more about here.
#4 Know whom to trust.
Common Sense Media has a list of age-appropriate news sources to recommend. Go over the list together and decide on which sites to bookmark—it’s important to talk about why you believe these sites are credible.
#5 Reinforce the value of restraint.
Rule of thumb: If you’re not sure, don’t share it. Remind your children that information disseminators have a responsibility towards their followers—encourage them to focus on sharing what they feel is useful or positive for others, and to refrain from spreading content that contradicts one’s beliefs and values. Discuss this with your children, hear them out, and work together on developing guidelines and boundaries for responsible social media sharing.