The ability to identify credible news sources is a prerequisite for engaging in healthy online and offline discussions. The majority of PenPals get their news from the internet, but most of them are unsure if fake news is an issue.
In a recent study, researchers from Stanford were shocked to find that over 80% of high school students struggle to verify photographic evidence and over 80% of middle school students can’t tell the difference between a real news story and sponsored content on social media.
This week, we celebrate ten PenPals of the Week who learned how to identify and combat fake news by participating in Facts, Opinions, and Fake News: Robbie, Elsa, Disa, and Emma from Sweden; Aidan, Brienna, Vanessa, and Ava from the USA; and Akhtam and Darina from Russia.
In this project, PenPals learn that it’s important to consider the intentions behind an article. Emotionally or politically charged pieces in particular deserve further research before being accepted as truth. News sources sometimes prioritize their own message and agenda over neutral reporting and sourcing.
“A fake news site in Sweden with a reputation for being extreme right wing is NyaTider. They usually bend the truth because they want people to think like them. For example, they exaggerate the migrant crisis in France. They have a picture but we can’t see who took the picture and if the picture is really taken where they say it is. If you see a news site like this, you have to look at what they want with the text and check with another news site that you know is reliable.”
Other publishers write sensational headlines or exaggerate stories in hopes of attracting a wider audience base and make more money.
“You can always find fake news in tabloids. They often make up stories out of small things to get money and views. For example, tabloids and fans thought Kylie Jenner confirmed her pregnancy because she put out a pictures of cinnamon buns on her Snapchat. In Sweden, we have a lot of tabloids that only make money out of fake news about the royal family.”
Some media platforms are built on anonymous publications where anybody can submit work. These sites may contain false information since unqualified authors are not held accountable for what they write.
“One example I have of fake news is Wikipedia. In Wikipedia, anybody can add things and people can think it’s real, but sometimes, it’s not. Some of these publishers just want content and want people to believe what they post.”
During their project, our PenPals of the Week didn’t just discuss how fake news affects communities today, but also how media bias and propaganda have influenced events throughout history.
“An example of fake news was when Hitler was making propaganda against the Jews. He was making false claims against them saying that they were bad people and that they were dangerous to the world. When this propaganda came out, people in Germany and in other countries were convinced that it was true and followed Hitler to be the leader of Germany.”
We are so proud of our PenPals of the Week for engaging in healthy discussions with their peers about media literacy and fake news!
Want to train your students to be better digital learners and combat fake news? Enroll your class in Facts, Opinions, and Fake News.