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Why Students are Getting "Faked Out" By Fake News

Media literacy has been at the forefront of the news recently and rightly so. Over the past few months, fake news has infiltrated the media through various outlets, but especially through social media. And who are the biggest users of social media? You’ve got it. Kids.

This wouldn’t be a problem if kids knew how to decipher what news is real, and what is not. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as one would think to peg fake news, especially when we have a President-Elect who not only believes fake news, but gives it credibility by either re-tweeting, re-posting, or discussing it publicly. But if kids knew what to look for, how to research it, and how to guarantee its validity – fake news wouldn’t be a problem at all…most of these stories would be laughable to those who are media literate.

A recent NPR article on this topic notes, “researchers at Stanford's Graduate School of Education have spent more than a year evaluating how well students across the country can evaluate online sources of information.” Their results were described as "dismaying," "bleak" and "[a] threat to democracy."

Frightening and disheartening as it may be, it IS possible to fix this dilemma.

Adults, and even most college and high school students, weren’t taught media literacy when

they were younger, so while I’m not giving them a pass, it’s easy to understand how fake news can spread and how some can find ridiculous “news” stories believable.

In my experience, believe it or not, students want and desire to learn media literacy. Those exposed to media literacy lessons in middle school are amazed when they enter high school by those who have ZERO critical thinking ability when viewing news stories on social media.

I asked a student at my high school who had taken Media Literacy, Information Literacy, and Digital Citizenship courses in middle school what she thought of her peers being “faked out” by fake news. Her answer isn’t surprising.

“It’s literally unbelievable to me how out of touch some kids at my school, even my friends, are with reality. I guess I was fortunate to learn about all this stuff in 8th grade.”

What did she learn? Well among other things, she had a "C.R.A.P. Detection" lesson that was adapted from Howard Rheingold’s book, “Net Smart: How To Thrive Online.” In it Rheingold states, “The first thing we all need to know about information online is how to detect crap, a technical term used for information tainted by ignorance, inept communication, or deliberate deception.” The objective of this Cyber Civics lesson (and the entire unit) is for students to begin to understand the importance of evaluating, accessing,

analyzing, and creating media in a variety of forms.

Why is it not a mandate for all schools to teach media literacy? Sounds like a no-brainer to this teacher. As the Stanford Graduate School study puts it – how students are currently evaluating online information is a “threat to our democracy”

What You Can Do

  • Promote media literacy curriculum to your local schools, check out Cyber Civics.

  • Visit the NAMLE (National Association for Media Literacy Education) website, and either join (it's free) or donate today.

  • Simply put your own critical thinking hats on when viewing news to stop the problem of fake news where it begins.

Peter joins the Cyber Civics team with experience in both Education as well as Marketing. He received a degree in Communication from the University of Portland with an emphasis in Media and Society. Peter has always had a passion for teaching and working with kids. In 2011 he made the switch from the business sector and has been an Educator at Aliso Niguel High School for the past 5 years. He’s also the Head Coach of both the Boys and Girls Tennis Programs. He resides in San Clemente, CA with his wife and young daughter and sees Cyber Civics as “the perfect fit” for his passions and skill sets.

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