Top 2 Go-To Tips For Helping Kids Spot "Fake News"

March 13, 2017By SmartFeed

Part 1 of 2 in a Series About Kids & Fake News

By Chris Donnelly

As I walked with my 11-year-old to school this morning, he asked “How was Donald Trump elected if so many people don’t seem to like him?” (we live in California).

I answered, “Many people do like him - he was elected by the rules governing our nation…meaning, although we may hear more from folks who didn’t vote for him, very many people are hopeful about what he may do for America and they like what he says he will do.” 

He walked for a bit and then commented “It seems like so many people dislike him…and want to show him as a bad president.”  At 11, he was observing the news as he’s absorbing it.

What struck me about his commentary was not so much that he had questions or wondered about how a person popular in one part of our country would be popular in another. It’s a rich discussion and one core to democracy.

What struck me was that he had such a strong point of view around how President Trump is perceived. We purposely don’t broadcast news in our home. On TV news, it’s tough to predict what story is coming on – and with kids 11, 8, 6 – we actively filter the content coming into our home. We also consume the more traditional “news” online so we don’t have physical media on the coffee table with headlines shaping his world view. And, we mostly walk or bike everywhere he’s going - so limited radio news.

So, how did he develop his point of view? Yes, my wife and I do have perspectives that our kids likely hear too – but, again, political dialogue with our kids while they’re in elementary school tends to be 10% of the airtime vs. the 60%+ we feel around adults.

That got me to thinking, how do our kids get their news and how do they know to interpret it as “Fake” or “Real”? The older our son gets and the more he reads, the more the news will become part of his life. "Fake News" is everywhere and I have trouble sorting it out myself. How does an 11-year-old think about it…and how can I help him?  

Two go-to suggestions:

  1. Teach kids to question what they hear. What would you have to believe to be true for the story to be true? Is it consistent with other things that you know?  Who can you ask or discuss the issue with? What sources of news seem more factual than others? Can you validate the sources in the story? What is opinion written as “fact"? And, at the end of that - what is your child’s opinion of the issue? 
    1. Try this set of shows about the news and bringing the news to kids. Watch them together - with your kids…talk over what you think about the shows – and how they found the stories as well as what they hoped the audience – would think after seeing the stories. Talk about how news entities are businesses – and consider how businesses stay afloat and what incentives that may create in various news channels.
    2. For some of the best movies, shows, apps and books to navigate current events –try our SmartFeed: Current Events Playlists
  2. Peruse at this new report from Common Sense Media: How Kids Interact with the News. It is clear kids value the news, but have trouble interpreting what is real and what is opinion. And, take a deeper look Common Sense - they have launched a news source for kids – about issues impacting kids.

These are interesting times. Teaching your kids how to ask critical questions and think about filtering information into insight will power them across news, work, communities and more.