With the proliferation of outrageous and fake news on the Internet and social media, it’s important to teach your child to distinguish between fact and fiction.
A 2017 survey by media watchdog Ofcom has found that 73% of children aged between 12 and 15 in the UK were aware of fake news, but almost half (46%) of those in the same age group who use social media as a news source say they find it difficult to tell whether a social media news story is true.
Helping your child understand the endless barrage of information they come across online helps them avoid becoming prey to hoaxes, clickbait or satire, while honing critical thinking skills. The first step to do so, would be cultivating a habit of asking questions.
When reading or watching the news with your child, verbalise your thoughts. Explain why you chose to click on a particular headline or article, and if it seems suspicious, give a play-by-play of how you fact-check and verify its credibility. Help your child better identify fake news by asking these six questions.
- Does the headline sound sensationalised or unrealistic?
Many sites resort to sensationalised clickbait websites in hopes of getting clicks on their story.
- Does the headline and/or picture match what’s written within the article?
If nothing matches, then chances are it’s clickbait.
- Does the article or headline sound neutral? Or was it written to stir emotions (ie. anger, upset)?
Because clickbait and fake news strive for extreme reactions, teach your child to look out for these red flags.
- Does the website’s URL look unusual, or have any odd suffixes or substitution?
Train your child to look out for fake news websites trying to appear legitimate by using web addresses that closely resemble authentic news sites. For example, abcnews.com.co (fake) versus abcnews.go.com – the former is deceptively similar and can be easily missed out on.
- Who wrote this article and where was it published?
Sites with fabricated or unverified content often give little to no detail on the author, contact details and more. Additionally, teach your child that disclaimers on websites such as, “This website contains reader submitted content” or that it contains “real shocking news and satire”, is high indication that they should not trust this news source.
- Is the article published on other legitimate news sites?
Find out if the news you’re reading is also published on other credible news outlets. If they aren’t, that doesn’t mean it’s fake – just dig deeper to consult and compare with competing news sources. Introduce your child to fact-checking websites like Snopes to help them easily verify fake news.