Fake News

Photo by Mallory Harmon.

Photo by Mallory Harmon.

Teens are now less aware of the news than ever, and it is mainly due to the decline in reading newspapers, watching news programs, and being exposed to increasing fake news.

Fake news is the collection of stories claiming truths about current events but lacking facts to support the claims. Not only is fake news so much of a nuisance that people have begun to mistrust every fact they find on social media, but it is also damaging to social awareness. Fake news is written due to various motivations, from the desire to cause trouble or sabotage a political actor or idea, to the urge to earn money through ads.

According to a Harvard University study, only one in twenty young people rely heavily on a daily newspaper. For the study, 1,800 people were interviewed: 28 percent of them between ages 12 and 17 said they pay almost no attention to the news every day, and 32 percent said they give casual attention to one news source a day.

Since it is unlikely teens will suddenly decide to subscribe to a newspaper or choose a news program over Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram (it’s just not the modern way of digesting news, however educational it may be), I will give you some information on how to distinguish between real and fake news.

There is a quiz online at channelone.com to test whether we can tell the difference between bogus news and facts. Just look up “Channel One Fake News Quiz.” The test warns if the titles of news stories are in all caps or have a lot of exclamatory punctuation, it is a good sign we are being lied to. Also, the test informs us what type of web addresses are a scam of the trustworthy news outlets and then teaches us to tell if a site is sketchy by the amount and kind of ads. This exercise will help us pick out the fake news at a glance. However, if you are still unsure if a fact is reliable, there are ways to find out, but let me first give a quick warning about social media.

Social media outlets are experts at manipulating our confirmation bias. When we like a story or site, Facebook (or whatever outlet we are using) will remember which type of news or viewpoint appealed to us. We are more likely to believe a position we already agree with (i.e., confirmation bias). Social media will spit out the stories they know we like, hoping to collect more likes and otherwise promote their supporters. Therefore, we should be particularly wary of the stories that seem to play with our emotions, the ones that hit a personal nerve.

Okay, last bit of advice: if you are particularly interested in a fact or story but you aren’t sure if you can trust it, there are resources. Besides Google searching the idea and looking for credible sources confirming or denying the news, we can use FactCheck or Snopes. If the question has something to do with politics or a fact a politician claimed, we could use FactCheck. Social Media sources and memes declaring a truth can be verified on Snopes. All that is needed is a keyword, and we are on our way to concise, reliable answers.

Unless restriction of fake news is implemented in the U.S., such as the legislation considered in areas like France, Germany, and Ireland, we, the consumers, have to become the gatekeepers. We are forced to take responsibility for the news we accept as factual. To do this, we can surround ourselves, by deliberate choice, with sources educating us daily on the matters of the world so we do not grow up unaware of the needs, function, and current events of our community and our world.