Do tweens and teens believe "fake news"?

Let's be clear: "Fake news" has always existed. From P.T. Barnum to Ripley's Believe It or Not to supermarket tabloids, selling outrageous ideas has long been a part of our culture. Most kids can tell the difference between the shocking stories they see in the checkout line and the more evenhanded reporting they see on the local TV news.

But today's fake online news sources so closely mimic real news that it's challenging even for adults to discern what's real and what's fake. Also, kids have less experience in and context for evaluating news sources, so certain words or images that might immediately tell an adult that something is fake or biased might not have the same effect on kids. Indeed, the spread of "fake news" has made tweens and teens very skeptical of the information they see and hear. Some say teachers have done too good a job of teaching kids to be skeptical of what they read online -- kids doubt a legitimate news source as much as they doubt a random blogger.

According to Common Sense Media's report, News and America's Kids: How Young People Perceive and Are Impacted by the News, less than half of kids agree that they know how to tell fake news stories from real ones. When it comes to online news, the stats reveal a serious lack of faith:

  • Only about one in four kids who gets news online think that news posted online (either by people they're close with or by news organizations) is "very accurate."
  • Only seven percent think news by people they don't know well is "very accurate."
  • Tweens are more likely than teens to think that news posted online is "very accurate."

The good news is that kids who get news from social media sites are trying to be careful readers. Most kids who get their news from social media say they pay "a lot" or "some" attention to the source the link on social media takes them to. And the majority who get news online say that when they come across information in a news story that they think is wrong, they "sometimes" or "often" try to figure out whether or not it's true.

Parents, talking to your kids about the news is one of the best ways to help determine whether a story is legitimate. Most kids say that they get "a lot" of news from their family and friends. Take the opportunity to hear what information your kids are getting and help them follow up by tracking down the source, researching the author and the news organization, cross-checking with other sources, and fact-checking

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