A Teacher’s Guide to Help Students Against Misinformation and Fake News
Greetings to the educators of the 21st century. We know that the digital world is already changing your classes and probably bringing you more challenges to consider with every teaching plan.
However, as students are surrounded by fake news, they are no distant victims of misinformation that might pop up anytime in their online research or social media feeds. Students might live in illusions or look at the world with a self-harming lens. They might be influenced to make the wrong decisions or befriend the wrong people. The dangers of believing a lie can go far.
Now, what about the moment it takes to share such fake information? Multiply the harms into an unknown number of people who might also fall victim. So, how can you, as an educator, protect your students who are expected to be the digital leaders of tomorrow?
The below guide offers you a few tips on how to develop your students’ critical thinking, pushing them to become media literates and fact-checkers who understand the line between real and fake news.
How do I help my students deal with the misinformation and fake news they come across online?
It starts by educating them about misinformation and fake news, including the definition of each, why someone might create them, how they spread, and the dangers of believing them, or even worse, acting upon them.
At an advanced stage, you can discuss the lines between fact and opinion, objectivity and bias, narrative reports, and sensationalized stories. You can also tackle concepts such as user-generated content and circular reporting, where fake news gets shared by multiple parties and somehow starts sounding verifiable.
For that, warn students against sharing any information they suspect. Ask them to hide, unfollow or report misinformation and fake news. You can also present them with debatable content and challenge them to detect its credibility through proper online research.
How can I guide my students to do proper online research?
Understanding the Do’s and Don’ts of proper online research can save students from the trap of misinformation and fake news.
- Check the publication date to see how updated or outdated the information is.
- Scan for the use of quotes and the credibility of the people saying them.
- Verify information by tuning into different sources to research the same topic.
- Look for the copyright statement, “About Us” and “Contact Us” sections to assess a website’s reliability.
- Keep researching for any contextual information you think might be missing.
- Use reports and news with anonymous sources.
- Fall for catchy headlines. They are intentionally written to get attention and clicks but usually end up displaying deceptive or fake content.
- Ignore poor visual design, such as cluttered text, excessive ALL CAPS, and heavily photo-edited images. This might indicate poor credibility of information.
- Keep following up on a piece of news every few minutes. Good reporting takes time to connect the dots for you.
- Rely on editors who republish information you can directly check at the original source.
What are some good references and credible sources of information that I can introduce to my students?
- Google Scholar: A great source for scholarly literature, like journal articles, citations, and academic books
- Encyclopedia Britannica: A credible platform to research general topics, like history, music, and biographies
- Science News for Students: An educational support that makes science more fun
- The World Factbook: Trustworthy information on countries of the world
- Worldwide News Sources: Such as The Economist and BBC
- Websites with “.gov” & “.edu”: Usually reliable and official sources for governmental and educational information
- Websites that use their name in the URL: Often more credible than websites using irrelevant names in their URL
- Fact-Checking Websites: Such as Media Bias/Fact check to check the bias of certain media outlets
What do I do when I know that my students are spreading misinformation and fake news?
- Use the tips above to help them differentiate between what’s real and fake.
- Encourage them to consult with you or an adult family member before sharing.
- Show them proof that their shared content isn’t accurate or true.
- Explain how this can affect their online reputation and credibility.
- Give them reliable sources that share news about their topics of interest.
- Consult with their parents or caregivers when additional support is needed.
Students might struggle to differentiate between real and fake news, and sometimes believing wrong information can stress them out. So, seize your classroom environment to resist misinformation with a positive influence, and raise a generation of critical thinkers who are also responsible digital citizens.