How to tackle fake news with our kids

Tech Talk Tuesday #92: How to tackle fake news with our kids

I want to share a story about my son Chase, who just graduated from high school last spring. It has to do with how as parents we have a big role to play in teaching our children to be critical, and skeptical, and to learn to identify trustworthy sources. It’s so easy now to perpetuate lies about personal things and inaccurate facts by blindly sharing and retweeting. And, behind the scenes, political agendas are being extended with bots. In this week's New York Times, John Herrman writes:

"Before the election, researchers at Oxford University suggested that between the first and second presidential debates, more than a third of pro-Trump tweets and almost a fifth of pro-Clinton tweets came from bot accounts. Political social bots have been stealing headlines ever since..."

My son just turned 18, and he is really jazzed to vote today. He impressed me last week by looking critically at “news” someone sent him. Sharing his story below with your kids, and linking to the articles to have them see fake news uncovered, can be a powerful teaching moment.

It started when Chase received a link to this article titled “400 Scientific Papers Prove Man-Made Global Warming Doesn’t Exist” from a family member who wanted to try to convince him that man does not impact global warming.  Here is the email that Chase wrote to his relative:

"I really appreciate you caring about me worrying about climate change. I think that is just one of many examples of ways in which you are so loving and kind towards me...I will note something I found tricky (and quite clever) in this article is that they actually mix up two Kenneths. You will see that the opening line of the article you shared says that it is Brown University Professor Kenneth R. Miller who is quoted throughout this article. However, when you click on his hyperlinked name, you can see that the blog it shows is by Kenneth Richard. All of the quotes from the article are from this second man Kenneth Richard. I did some background research on these two guys: Kenneth Miller is a Brown University Biology professor. However, he has no published work denying climate change and its impact. In fact, this interview with him shows him arguing that climate change is real and that immediate action should be taken. He appears nowhere else in the article you sent even though the article suggests it is all his research.
Kenneth Richard, who is responsible for the entirety of the content of the article, is a conservative blogger that gets picked up by Breitbart and other conservative news outlets. I can not find his scientific credentials anywhere on the internet!
This mix up was corrected in the Conservative Tribune but not before other news outlets picked it up as a chance to add more credibility to the denial of climate change. This is what people mean when they say ‘Fake News.’ This is why we need to be much more vigilant when we consume media on the internet."

For Tech Talk Tuesday this week let's talk about truth and lies on the internet. It is critical that we impart the next generation with examples of how facts can easily be distorted in the digital age and spread faster than the speed of light.

  1. What news source do you go to for news you trust?
  2. Do you think what happened in Chase’s example above happens a lot? Why or why not?
  3. What are ways we as a society can work to reduce spreading lies on the internet?