5 Steps to Help Your Kids Spot Fake News

Mar 14, 2017

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.

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

Fighting Fake News

Step 1: Look for 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.

Step 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 Snopes or FactCheck.org.

Step 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.

Step 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.

Step 5: Read Beyond the Headline
We don’t always have time to read a lengthy article all the way through, but a good practice – especially for kids – 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 there credentials 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 of 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!