Children are using technology very early on in their lives. But as they get older, are they actually able to use critical thinking to determine the validity of Internet content?
Stanford researchers conducted a study on whether or not young students were able to tell the difference between real and fake news. Over the course of 18 months, they had 7,804 middle school, high school, and college-age students evaluate articles, tweets and comments. What they found was somewhat concerning.
80% of middle schoolers were unable to identify ‘sponsored content’ from articles. Over 80% of high schoolers accepted the validity of photographs without attempting to verify their authenticity and were unable to tell fake news from real news on Facebook.
Although this may seem alarming, several schools are already including ‘digital literacy’ in their curriculum.
Cornell University defines digital literacy as “The ability to find, evaluate, utilize, share, and create content using information technologies and the Internet.”
Many teachers that are already promoting ‘digital literacy’ are using supplemental instruction from places like “Common Sense” and “Newsela,” nonprofit organizations that provide lesson plans. It’s structured to improve reading comprehension, alert kids about security concerns, and prevent cyberbullying.
Now that the study has concluded, Stanford hopes to produce a series of high-quality web videos to alert educators, policymakers, and others over the importance of digital literacy.