Yes, we are allowing “fake news” a legitimacy it doesn't deserve. Of course, we are all quite confident in our own ability to discern fake news from the real stuff. After all, we can recognize an ad when we see one, right? And a completely phony headline or story from the real thing.
According to The Wall Street Journal analysis of a study done by Stanford University, 82% of middle-school students couldn’t distinguish between a native ad and a real news story. Four out of 5 couldn't identify the difference.
The WSJ's conclusion:
“Overall, young people’s ability to reason about the information on the Internet can be summed up in one word: bleak.”
This study was conducted across middle school, high school and college students over an 18-month period from January 2105 to June 2016.
The study covered:
- native advertising and the ability to identify an item as an ad or non-ad
- the ability to determine if a photo on a photo sharing website provides strong evidence and
- the ability to consider the source of a tweet and the usefulness of that tweet
And it gets even scarier. “ . . . only nine percent of high school students in an Advanced Placement history course were able to see through MinimumWage.com’s language to determine that it was a front group for a D.C. lobbyist . . .” And “among college students the results were actually worse: ninety-three percent of students were snared.”
Our perspective: We have to do better than this. It’s not an option, and it’s up to us. Here's what I think we can -- and should, and must -- do:
- Talk to our children about “native advertising” and “fake news” and “paid advertising.” Show and tell them the difference.
- Talk to each other. A quick glance at Twitter or a Snapchat post or a website we’ve never visited before can so easily give anyone false information or the wrong impression.
- Use our native intelligence and natural inquisitiveness. If an item just sounds crazy, review the source. Look at other channels that might cover the same topic. Be SKEPTICAL.
Support and use the sources that report the real stuff.
We all have our favorite BRANDED sources for international, national and regional news and information. Hopefully, there's a few local sources you have bookmarked, are following on Twitter or are in your Flipboard page. There is much solid work being done by local radio, TV and newspaper journalists and bloggers. Support and recommend them. Look for curated sites.
We need sources we can trust for our news and information. We're all entitled to our own opinions, but not our own facts.