When Teens Find Misinformation, These Teachers Are Ready

from NYTs

Between lessons about the Revolutionary War and the functions of Congress, juniors in several history and U.S. government classes at Palmer High School in Colorado Springs are taught to defend themselves against disinformation.

The students, many of them on the cusp of voting age, spend up to two weeks each fall exploring how falsehoods, prejudices and opinions can lurk in the many places they get information. They learn to trace the origins of documents, to validate a website by leaving it to consult other sources and to train a critical eye on the claims made by TikTok influencers and on YouTube videos.

“With students and adults alike, it’s just easy to look at stuff on social media and take it as it is and not question it,” said Paul Blakesley, who has taught students about media and information literacy for several years at the high school. “It can be difficult to push through that apathy, but it’s well worth trying.”

Children and teenagers are not the only ones susceptible to misinformation: Several studies suggest that older adults are more likely to struggle to recognize fake news and are the most likely to share it.

More here.

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17 Comments

  1. Although it may not seem true to most people, most social media platforms, especially Tiktok, show many viewers videos containing false information on practically any subject. Even though I have social media, I take everything I read or see with a grain of salt. for example, many extremely interesting historical videos will show up on my feed and I’ll think to myself, “how have I never heard of this before?” Then I will look up the topic, and there will be no evidence backing up the claim. I will see these videos constantly, and even though I know to fact check the information, There are younger viewers who will believe whatever they see. This is extremely dangerous, as it fills young minds with wrong information which they could carry with them into adulthood. This harms our social environment, because if adults who learned false information as a child and believe it as an adult, then what is false will end up becoming the truth. This is why I believe allowing children to be on social media platforms benefits no one but the adult, as they don’t have to worry about their kid since it keeps them busy. Tiktok is just one of the social media platforms spreading lies. Instagram takes this to a different level, one more centered around people photoshopping their pictures to make themselves more appealing. This reduces the confidence of others, as they try to imitate these people even though what they are posting is not their true self. This is mainly a problem with teenage women, as they grow to be body conscious about themselves and don’t hold any confidence. These are the issues with social media, and while they are fun to waste time with and mindlessly scroll, they damage our minds on a separate level

  2. False information is a significant dilemma that we struggle with, but it has taken a generational leap in this day in age. Social media platforms such as Tiktok, Youtube, Instagram, Twitter, etc; all contain a lumpsum of false information that the gullible everyday person would believe is true. I see this as a problem because we do not know who is posting the information, nor do we know where they got it from; therefore how can we validate if the information is correct or false. Personally, I have several social media platforms but I am well aware that not everything I see on social media is real because whoever is posting the information has their own opinion, thoughts, and ideas on the topic. Therefore, they’re going to provide the information whichever way sounds best to them and not the reality. From my encounters with others, people who tend to believe the false information on social media are either younger or older people. I believe, younger people are too naive and don’t know better, while older people are gullible and naturally it is easier to convince them into believing something. Personally, I believe the false information provided on social media is detrimental to everyone’s mental health. Due to the amount of negativity and drama that gets pushed onto people’s phones on a day-to-day basis. To add on, false information forced me to limit my screen time because I didn’t want to get brainwashed by the false narratives in the world. Lastly, we as a society need to do better by simply understanding not everything on the internet is real.

  3. On the internet, one of the main things everyone who uses it has to worry about is the question of whether the information that is on there is valid or not. The spread of false information can happen fast. When people see some sort of important news or information the first thing they usually do is hop on social media and start sharing it. A lot of people spread false information on the internet without even knowing it due to them, not fact checking their sources. You hear a lot of information that just sounds crazy and wrong. For example, you hear crazy things like 5g causing cancer and a whole bunch of other stuff. It’s important that kids are now being taught to fact-check and verify if their sources and be trusted. When the article talks about how older people are more susceptible to be sharing false information on the internet, I believe everyone has a certain amount of gullibility younger kids more than others. For example, with me if something sounds completely crazy and not true, I definitely won’t believe it. But if it sounds like it’s the truth and it could be real, I’d probably end up believing it and going about my day. With younger kids with all these social media platforms it’s nearly impossible for them to avoid the spread of false information, with any app you can open and some crazy story will come up about a certain topic then with young kids being so gullible to everything they will most likely share it with their friends then those friends share it with others then it just keeps on going.

    • I definitely agree that this runs a risk for younger kids. I remember seeing the post about 5g causing cancer, and my parents were hesitant to buy any new phones after they read that. These articles get crazier and crazier over time, and they also get harder to pick out as to which are true and which are fake. I am sometimes guilty of sharing things on social media and not knowing if it’s true or not. I do feel like it’s almost impossible to stop this false information from spreading, but there definitely could be something done to fix it.

  4. Misinformation is at an all-time high being spread through many forms of social media. Through platforms such as Tik-Tok, Twitter, and Facebook there are many different ways that people get misinformation spread. Now that everything is on the internet misinformation and spread at an all-time high which is a reason why I don’t believe everything I see on the first view of something. The problem with a lot of social media is that there’s no way to validate the information that someone posts because they are behind their account and don’t need to validate the information that they’re putting out there on these platforms. It is also a way that people can push an agenda or whatever they want on social media when they want to. A reason that I think of when I think of misinformation being spread quickly is when kids or people of young age get a hold of this information and don’t think about validating it. They can be very naive about the things that are being said to them and may believe the majority of the things that are being sent online unless they are taught to question everything. But all the issues aren’t just for children and young adults people of older age also struggle with a lot of misinformation because they’ve never been told to question the things that they’ve seen on the internet. It’s a cycle that somewhat seems never-ending because social media platforms also aren’t doing much for the misinformation being spread because there’s too much of it but that’s why you should question everything that you see on the internet.

  5. Social media has truly changed the way news and information is shared and interpreted. As convenient and useful as social media can be it can also be harmful in many ways. Across social media platforms, there is an abundance of misinformation spread to millions of users per day. It is inevitable for there to be misinformation on social media however over the years it has gotten worse. Especially on apps like Tiktok, young users are influenced to believe everything they see on social media is real and true. Even at nineteen years old, I have read plenty of online articles and believed everything that was written in them because I did not want to fact-check them. I find how Palmer High School is teaching their students about misinformation on the internet to be smart and useful. Oftentimes, social media can be very political so by these students learning how to trace the origins of information, it will be helpful for them to understand current politics and vote accordingly if they are of age. As Hsu writes, “a .org domain does not make a website trustworthy,” and neither does a .edu domain. Everything small detail on the internet can easily be manipulated, which is scary to think about. Similar to the Harrods LTD v Sixty Internet Domain Names law case, multiple websites can have a very similar domain name and it is difficult for users to tell the difference. You may think you are on a secure website, but in reality, you can be on a non-secure website with hackers stealing your information and tracking your IP address, which is very dangerous. It is very interesting how one person can spread a lie on the internet and within minutes it will reach different parts of the world. On the internet, I see misinformation on a variety of topics such as the vaccine, conspiracies on when certain historical figures passed away, and fast-food secret menus. The internet is not going anywhere anytime soon so it is important to know how to decipher between good and bad information. I believe colleges and universities should require their students to take a course on media literacy.

  6. In the digital age, we can have access to any information that our hearts desire at the click of a button at any given time. With the creation of mainstream media, Twitter, Instagram, and the like, the chances of misinformation skyrocketed with it. In addition, on online platforms, misinformation tends to spread like wildfire and the people that believe it and repost or share it allow it to gain more and more traction. Even if something that has been posted feels untrue, the fact that rumors or false headlines are in circulation can begin to put doubt in the minds of the masses. With all the misinformation in the virtual world, and the incredibly large number of young people who live on their phones, it is a great idea for Palmer High School to be teaching their students about this. It is crucial for one to form their own opinions based on truth. To find the truth, you have to do your homework and find the sources of which the original information came from. I believe that it is also just as important to find information that comes from both sides if we are dealing with politics. Open mindedness is incredibly important because you can receive information from source “x”, “y”, and “z” that support their own respective groups or ideas, and make your own informed decisions based on your research. Learning to do that will prove to be beneficial, as you will become knowledgeable in many realms, and you will improve upon your ability to determine the validity of the information that comes your way.

  7. In society today, almost everyone gets their information in a similar fashion, that being by looking through the internet and seeing what has been popular on any given day. This is especially true of sites like twitter where the “trending” tab showcases what everyone is talking about at that current moment. The problem with this is that most people talking about certain topics on twitter have little to know knowledge about what is going on except for what had already been posted on twitter prior. This style of taking in media is extremely susceptible to misinformation and group think as people will just assume what everyone else is saying is true because a lot of people are saying it. The other major issue with how most people take in information is the primary sources that they are using. Many people will find headlines that seem shocking or impossible or often might just agree their preconceived notions and repost it as a fact despite it coming from a less reputable source. A lot of the time I believe people post fake media because they want it to be true. A prime example of this is the fake news surrounding the Covid vaccine, many people did not want to get this vaccine so when they saw any kind of negative media surrounding it, they were quick to repost it or share information from it. Many people would also soon get support from family or friends who think similarly to them and would then in turn give another false sense of validation to this fake information. I believe that it is extremely important for people to not only make sure that they are getting their news from a reputable source, but also make sure that they are developing their own opinions and not simply believing what others say because it confirms their belief. I think that the simplest way to do this by doing an exercise where you explain why you believe something and look at what made you think that and where the information originally came from. Once people can begin doing this regularly then we as a culture can begin to get past this age of false information.

  8. The internet has proven to be the most important invention created in the last twenty years. As we know it has made information and news much more accessible than it ever was. The invention of social media has further heightened this age of information as it has made it even easier for news articles to spread. It has also enabled the fake news and misinformation to pass throughout the screens of many students. Nowadays any student who has twitter or Facebook will easily come through a post containing fake news and then believe it to be true. We also have to account for the problem of confirmation bias amongst students. Many times people will come across these fake articles and believe them to be true simply because it aligns with their own political beliefs. During election years there are so many advertising campaigns which are filled with fake news just so it can hurt the opposing party or candidates chances of winning the election. The best way to combat this terrible age of misinformation, is for the person looking at this article to find out if the publisher is a reputable source to fact check. Social media companies should also take strides to provide more fact checking done on articles so eventually misinformation cannot be passed to others. Once people make these strides it will severely allow for people to make more educated opinions and thoughts.

  9. We rely heavily on the internet to find most of our information. Our first words when someone asks for an answer to a question we don’t know it’s usually “google it.” And with social media and other media platforms, information is constantly going out. In this era of the internet and social media, there is widespread misinformation. Especially when covid-19 outbroke, there was a constant spread of misinformation. There are tons of tabloids that have their own social media pages on Twitter, Instagram, etc. As time has passed and people have been catching onto the fake news, there is now a fact-checking notice on some posts. Even on some news platforms, fact-checkers are verifying the news. As far as I can remember, teachers and people have always told me to never use Wikipedia because there is tons of misinformation. You can’t avoid that there will be misinformation online, but there should always be multiple sources and a fact checker enabling the right work to be done and put out there. I remember when the covid vaccine came out, there was so much information about it possibly causing infertility or hair loss, which people had believed because it’s the internet, and that’s the first thing we do. Especially during political races, the candidates face tons of misinformation, and people usually believe it. My grandparents are on Facebook, and they believe whatever they see. It’s normal to have the initial instinct to trust the internet, but there should be some security and accuracy available.

  10. In today’s age of social media and the internet, being able to interpret when something is false information or a reliable source is more important than ever. There are a lot of people on the internet giving facts and information and not all of it is true. As stated in the article, many seniors in high schools and older are eligible to vote in America. With this being said a lot of their time is being spent on social media platforms and surfing the internet meaning that a lot of the information that they come across is not always verified. If this is the case, many do not take the time to see if the information is true or not which is dangerous. Many young Americans especially are using social media as forms to do their research which is not the most reliable way to find information.
    In the article they use a statistic that says that 97 percent of students in a study conducted by Stanford students were unable to identify false information from the truth. This is scary because if a student finds information that they deem to be useful and true they tend to spread that information which can be dangerous. This is why I agree with the people in the article when they say that children should be taught how to fact- check information in early middle school and even in elementary school. This is when students begin using the internet and social media (actually it is probably even earlier now). By teaching children how to fact check information, they are being given tools on how to protect themselves and the people around them from being misguided and being lied to.
    In addition to being taught how to fact check information, students should be taught some of the more trustworthy sites that they can use for certain topics. Oftentimes people do not want to do their own research and find the facts themselves, if this is the case going to a well-regarded place might help limit the spread of misinformation. Examples include not using Wikipedia, or twitter, and using places such as databases or government websites for information.

  11. The concept of media literacy is the result of the emerging dominance of online media news over classical paper magazines. Now, instead of giving our trust and attention to the classical sources of news, we turn our faces to modern sources of media consumption. We tend to track the news through Twitter, Instagram, Tik Tok, or any other available social network. The problem that comes with it is the diversity of views and perspectives that social media gives us. From one point of view, it appears to be a better substitution for traditional sources of media, since we are exposed to more information coming from thousands of different sources. However, the problem with social media lies in its foundational concept. Since every user of social media can share his opinions and views, it creates a wide spectrum of millions of different views on a given topic. With such an abundance of perspectives, it becomes hard to identify reliable sources. Nowadays, we are prone to blindly believe in whatever our “credible source” tells us. Confirmation of the news that we are exposed to has become a forgotten thing.
    The variety of news and opinions we are exposed to on social media supplies us with a vast amount of fake news and unproven facts. Social media sometimes impairs our abilities to judge rationally and form our own opinion. The non-stopping stream of news and facts regarding a particular event makes it harder for the user to form his own opinion due to the variety of opinions coming from different sources.
    The implementation of classes that will teach high schoolers how to navigate across social media and check for the reliability of each source they come across will be an effective measure to fight disinformation by the media. I believe that it is important to promote such programs nationwide. In the modern world, where technology is a part of our daily lives, learning particular skills on how to navigate across social media and not fall into the trap of misinformation is essential to raising content awareness among the younger groups of our population. Teaching the younger generations how to consume information and find trustworthy sources will enhance their ability to process information and ultimately form the most rational and knowledgeable opinion.

  12. I feel that social media definitely is the biggest supplier of fake news out there. Tiktok is the biggest one in my opinion. I scroll on TikTok all the time to just try to relax after a long day, look up information I need, or even when I am just trying to get a good laugh at something. Many times on TikTok I see interesting facts about things that I like or that I have shown interest in. In my opinion, it is better than watching the news because a lot of the younger generation uses their phone to watch TikTok, or scroll through instagram and snapchat. Watching the news on TV has turned into an older generation thing. Social media is starting to dominate the news world. A lot of times, the creators of these social media posts are children, who have no idea what they are talking about, who just make up crazy facts for likes. This is very believable sometimes for many people, even me, because you see some crazy news story that looks real that has millions of likes on it. This prompts me and I assume everyone else to race to the internet and look up if this is real immediately. Sometimes, if it looks real enough, I won’t even question it or look it up. I will spread it around and tell my parents the crazy thing I just saw on TikTok and usually they will not believe me and they will look up if the information I am telling them is true. An example I can give is about last year, I was scrolling on TikTok and saw that a famous music artist that I had liked for a long time had passed away from a heart attack. I believed it for the entire day and I laid in bed depressed because I was so upset that I thought my favorite music artist had passed away. I later went on google and tried to research the details of the death, but it came up as a hoax. I was very agitated with myself after this because I had believed a fake news article from a social media platform. I think that even though social media is taking over it is still very important to have the real news channels because they can always fact check fake information you possibly see.

  13. As a current college student and 20 year old, I feel I grew up in a time where the world was starting to go virtual. Meaning, I had the chance to experience a childhood of going outside and playing and not necessarily needing technology to almost relying on technology in some shape or form in every daily activity. Whether it be communicating, playing, or learning, technology has taken over most aspects of daily life. During this transition is it has gotten easier and easier to get information at your fingertips for almost anything you need., and the creation and spreading of misinformation has heightened to a point that there are websites that are specifically made for the purpose of “fact checking” to make sure you are using reliable sources. There are many avenues that people can receive their news now, such as, newspaper, television, or social media. Probably somewhat biased, but I feel as if social media can be one of the best accessible places to get news, but is also one of the most tainted places to get news. In other words, so many people have the access to post whatever they want whenever the want, that the reliable sources can sometimes be drowned out by other people’s opinions and narratives. Like the article says, I feel like this makes it harder for people who do not have experiences using social media, or the internet in general, to find information that is either flat out incorrect or tainted in some way. One of these two demographics of people are usually teenagers looking for information for school or because they are starting to get interested in politics. Another group of people who normally do not have the experience to discern whether or not the information is accurate are older adults. For obviously different reasons, but both of these groups, young teenagers and older adults, are more likely to instantly share the first thing that comes up when they search for information. Doing this is very dangerous when you have a platform or group of people that listen to you, because spreading misinformation can be harmful. All in all, I feel this New York Times article provides a look in at what to look out for when researching information and how it most likely affects the people you end up sharing it with.

  14. A democratic society can only properly and efficiently function when its constituents are well-informed, utilizing their intellect to uphold their beliefs through civil engagement, including elections, public discourse, etc. Submerged within the modern technological era, misinformation and fake news have plagued all generations across the nation regardless of the education obtained. The American people have been victims of such atrocities through schemes such as Big Oil greenwashing campaigns, Cambridge Analytica’s misinformation in the 2020 election, as well as the January 6th Insurrection. These schemes, alongside others, have severe implications for the stability and longevity of our democracy, threatening to dismantle rights, induce social turmoil, and polarize the political landscape. As a society, we have already viewed and are enduring these implications in real time, as our representatives and justices continue to attack our rights and protections. Misinformation has upheld the base necessary for these implications, through election manipulation, baseless propaganda, and the perpetuation of the contortion of the Constitution. The United States is now posed with a grave question, how can it best combat the intensifying issue, in an effort to protect the stability and values of the nation?
    As our author, Tsu discovers, education is the most fierce weapon against misinformation, highlighting its benefits as well as obstacles in the modern political climate. Educating the future, and soon to be, voting population, is extremely necessary, as we have seen older generations are more susceptible to believing misinformation, and adopting such ideologies, creating division and chaos. Yet, despite these clear concerns for duplication in the future, the US has made education on misinformation nearly unobtainable, as it does for many other subjects. In recent years, states have failed to provide adequate financial literacy, health/sex education, equitable computer literacy, or providing accurate education on race and discrimination (censoring books on such topics). The supermajority conservative bench and its governor counterparts have continuously disadvantaged the youth of this nation, failing to properly educate them on real-world skills. Beyond this, they have continuously hindered the capabilities of educators, lacking sufficient budgets or protections for public education systems, as these entities face staff shortages, subject censorship, and poor resource distributions.
    However, the US must enact legislation, enforcing the integration of Media and Information Literacy throughout curriculums in numerous subjects. Literacy courses must be an integrative part of all subjects, beginning as early on as primary school, incorporated throughout papers, homework, and in-class assignments. Students must leave each year with strengthened research, fact-checking, and critical thinking skills for analyzing information. By providing the courses sooner, the future voting population will have already engraved the tools necessary to decipher and debunk misinformation, as well as to maintain a critical eye on politicians, influencers, ads, etc.
    The past few years have been worrisome, as red flags have been erected across the political and legal realms of this nation. From election manipulation in 2020 to the January 6th insurrection, my fellow Americans and I fear for our future. Those with power have been able to take advantage of our ignorance of the tools needed to analyze information for its validity, manipulating our beliefs, in an effort to push ulterior motives. Entire elections have been swayed by these schemes, and alongside efforts such as gerrymandering and disenfranchisement, enacted by the same powerful entities, voting has become even more difficult. Our democracy is currently threatened, and misinformation has been one of its biggest threats. It is more than likely that a large portion of the US has been a victim of misinformation, and will continue to be, what does this mean for our rights? If we continue to inaugurate politicians threatening our rights, on the basis of false information, our nation’s constitutional values will only deteriorate. As a democracy, our politicians have the obligation to ensure our votes are not manipulated and are clear expressions of our beliefs. The American government owes it to the people to equip the future voting population with the tools necessary to combat this deterioration and should be obligated to endorse such courses today.

  15. Misformation is false or inaccurate information. Misformation is something that we don’t really think about. It happens throughout different forms of social media. It’s getting to a point that we don’t really even notice it and if it is even trustworthy. Platforms such as instagram, youtube, and tiktok are mostly used by teens. When someone hears news or information, the first thing that comes to their mind is to go to social media. Then they start to share what they have “heard” from others. They don’t even check if the information is correct, if they are actually a fact. This is getting to a point that we don’t even believe it. Social media information is something that we can’t really validate if the information is correct. I think that teens, students, etc should be informed about the importance of checking the information on the internet. We all are victims and also have friends that fall into false information. It’s something we don’t think of and can be easy to get caught up in. We all easily believe things when there is a spread of people advocating. The articles state “With students and adults alike, it’s just easy to look at stuff on social media and take it as it is and not question it,” said Paul Blakesley”. Just like they said it is something that we should fight for and can be difficult “it’s well worth trying.”. Who nowadays spends more time on social media teens. Teens spending more time online. The article was to get a point for the teacher to step in. Just how they say educator are “are increasingly trying to offer protection” and they are teaching students that “virality does not confer legitimacy”. When we see .org in a website we think it’s trustworthy but it can be misleading and false news. It’s important not to trust random sources or posts you see. it is important to check your sources. These platforms spread lies and there isn’t just one there all around the corders. Just like tik-tok in which teens are all in is one. But when we get to a different platform like instagram, people change their photos and even lie about places they might be or not. Some website lie about people’s death and even can get deeper. When we need to reduce what we believe on social media. We should all know to fact check everyone’s instagram posts and know what to believe. We need to understand not everything online is real.

  16. Whether the information on the internet is accurate or not is one of the key concerns that everyone who uses it needs to deal with. False information can be quickly disseminated. People typically go straight to social media to share significant news or information when they come upon it. Due to their lack of fact-checking their sources, many people distribute erroneous information on the internet without even realizing it. There is a lot of stuff that sounds absurd and incorrect. For instance, you hear absurd claims like 5G causing cancer and a ton of other things. It’s critical that educators teach children how to fact-check information and determine whether a source can be trusted. I agree that everyone has a certain amount of credulity, albeit I think younger kids have it more than others since the article discusses how older individuals are more likely to be spreading misleading information online. For instance, if something sounds absolutely absurd and untrue to me, I will most certainly not believe it. But if it sounds plausible and could actually be true, I’d probably end up accepting it and carry on with my day. Young children are so gullible to everything that it is nearly impossible for them to prevent the spread of false information because of all the social media platforms available to them. With any app you open, some crazy story about a particular topic will appear, and because young children are so gullible to everything, they will probably share it with their friends who will then share it with others, and so on.

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