How to Navigate “Fake News” with Your Kids

“Fake News” isn’t a new phenomena, but the ease with which people can copy, paste, click and share content online, allows it to spread so pervasively that it has become a major issue.  With young people- especially teenagers- constantly exposed to a flood of information found online, knowing how to sift out the truth from falsehoods, is a critical skill.  When teens receive information that is deceptive, disturbing, or inflammatory, it can promote feelings of anxiety, fear and anger. 

Although social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter have made some attempts to flag or remove troublesome articles and videos, there simply aren’t enough resources to check each one.  Here are some tips for parents to help their children think critically about what they see and hear on social media and tv. 

-Use a technique called lateral reading, suggests Common Sense Media.  If you find a piece of information, compare coverage of it with several other sources. Ideally, parents should encourage their kids to verify information through trusted news outlets. 

-Take time to review news sites which are known to circulate false news with your children. Before you show these sites to them, make sure the content on them doesn’t feature anything you aren’t comfortable with them seeing.

-If your children are older, explain how “internet hoaxes”- deliberate falsehoods created to be a prank or trick, and “clickbait”- headlines whose main purpose is to attract attention, are designed to get people to click on a link to a particular web page.

You can begin building media literacy as early as the preschool years, says The National Association for Media Literacy Education , by supporting critical thinking skills and helping your child actively question and reflect as they consume pictures (in books) and other visual media.

For more information on this topic, check out this Wired.com article or the  NAMLE website.

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