5 Steps to Help Your Kids Spot Fake News

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Fake news. You hear about it everywhere these days – online, TV, social media. We know it’s bad. We know it’s misinformation. But how do we spot it? 

And more importantly, how can we teach our kids to identify it?

In an age where content is king and the news moves in seconds, not days, it can be confusing to weed out the valid stories. There are more places to get your news and millions of people willing to interject their opinions and claim it as fact.

According to Common Sense Media, a whopping 31% of teens and tweens admitted to sharing a fake news story online, only realizing after the fact that it was, indeed, false. With the increase in social media activity surrounding politics leading up to the mid-term elections, this is the perfect time to address the topic of fake news with kids.

Here are 5 easy steps to help your kids spot false stories and fake news.

How to Fight Fake News

1. Look for credible sources.

A tell-tale sign that an article is not legit is a lack of crediting sources. This is true for photo accreditation, as well as for statistics and any widely-made claims. Scan through the article and if you don’t see quotes, links back to the source or footnotes, it’s probably not legitimate.

2. Research the content. 

Luckily, all it takes is a quick Google search to see if well-known, reliable news agencies are reporting on similar content. Stick with the tried and true websites. If you’re still not sure, double-check at fact-checking specialty sites like FactCheck.org.

3. Beware of sensationalism. 

Using provocative keywords can be a clue that something’s not quite right. Overly sensational headlines are used to draw unsuspecting readers in. Basically, if it sounds too outlandish to be true, it’s probably not. This goes for the headline as well as the entire content of the article.

4. Investigate the URL. 

Does the website have a funky ending? Is the spelling incorrect? If it’s ending in something other than .com or .org, it may warrant speculation.

5. Read beyond the headline. 

We don’t always have time to read a lengthy article all the way through, but a good practice is to not take everything at face value. Sometimes headlines are misleading on purpose. 

Look beyond the headline to the byline. Who is the author? Are they credible? Are their credentials listed and are they accurate? 

Again, in this case, Google is your friend. Then, continue reading past the byline and consider the entire article. Did you learn anything substantive? Or was it all emotionally driven to elicit a reaction?

Tip: Facebook recently started adding disclaimers to possible fake news posts, with the use of third party fact checking organizations. If deemed inaccurate, posts could be labeled as “Disputed” if not credible. This label may not appear on every piece of fake news, though, so a keen eye and your best judgement is recommended.

Knowledge is Power

Though fake news is a burden, it can also be a powerful learning tool. Use this as an opportunity to find news stories together as a family and critique them. Not only will this help develop their reading skills, it will also give them a keen sense of what’s real and what’s fake. Plus – added family time!

About Jennifer Leonard

Jennifer Leonard is the Social Media Manager for Zift. She is passionate about connecting with people – in person and via social media. She spends her days writing, tweeting, pinning and using as many hashtags she possibly can. #Goals 

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