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Media Literacy, Fake News, & Help for Kids

Derek HalesBy Derek Hales
Updated March 12, 2018

High-speed or dial-up, wifi or wired ethernet, a connection to the internet is all it takes to make “news”. Websites across the globe advertise themselves as reputable news outlets with trusted sources or authenticated backgrounds.

Educated news anchors or a middle-aged guy living in his parent’s basement, the internet seems to blur the line as it gets harder and harder to distinguish fake news from real. As a kid, this can be especially challenging. Many parents raise children to “trust adults” and seldom question authority figures. But online, it’s a whole new ballgame.

People don’t always play by the rules and as a kid, you need to be prepared and know how to sniff out FAKE NEWS. This guide will give you all the tools you need to recognize the difference between authentic news and phony stories when you see them.

What is Media Literacy?

First things first, what is media literacy? Media literacy can be defined in many ways, but it’s basically the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and communicate messages in a variety of forms. It’s the process of sifting through the onslaught of information that is constantly being thrown at you— eating the meat and spitting out the bones.

Media Literacy is your ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and create media.

Media Literacy is your ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and create media.

Media literacy is important because without it, there is no level of discernment when you hear or read about new “facts”.

What is Fake News?

Fake news is news that is generated from false facts or unverified sources. Fake news generally is written to appeal to people’s emotions. Fake news makes you say “WOW” or could try to change you opinion due to a feeling.

Fake news relies on people sharing the content to spread it. If someone reads something shocking, they will likely share it with friends, post about it on their social media profiles, or click on it multiple times.

Fake news is a type of propaganda that consists of deliberate misinformation intended to mislead the consumer of the respective media.

Fake news is a type of propaganda that consists of deliberate misinformation intended to mislead the consumer of the respective media.

Many fake news articles are called “Clickbait”. Catchy, shocking titles make you want to click on the piece and when you do, the source of the content makes a little bit of money, through strategically placed ads on the site.

How To Recognize Fake News?

When you read new information, it’s important to put the data through a filter, of sorts. As you read,  there are a couple questions you can ask in order to help determine if the content is true.

What is the domain?

One easy check is to check the domain name. Does this content come from a university? A reputable professional organization? A government entity? For example, “FredsFacts.biz” would likely be a less reputable source than “USA.gov” for educational, verified information.

What domains can be trusted? Usually .gov and .edu sources can be trusted, but you should always verify the information.

What domains can be trusted? Usually .gov and .edu sources can be trusted, but you should always verify the information.

.edu

This domain means that the website is an educational entity. In most cases, it represents United States affiliated institutions of higher education. These are typically authoritative and trustworthy sites for educational information.

.gov

This domain means that the website has restricted use by the United States government only. These sites are administered by the GSA, General Services Administration, an independent agency of the United States federal government. These are typically authoritative and trustworthy sites for educational, governmental, societal, and political information.

.org

This domain was originally intended to be by non-profit organizations, but it was never restricted. This is commonly used by schools, community programs, or other non-profit businesses. However, anyone is able to register .org domain, including for purposes beyond its common uses. These are generally trustworthy sites for educational information, but should always be verified.

.com

This domain was originally intended to be used by registered commercial organizations (derived from the word commercial), but it was later broadened to include general purposes as well. These are sometimes trustworthy sites for educational information, but should always be verified.

.net

This domain was originally intended to be used by organizations involved in networking technologies (derived from the word network), but it was never restricted so it became a bit of a free-for-all. These are sometimes trustworthy sites for educational information, but should always be verified.

Other Domains

There are over 250 different domain types, including .biz, .us, .io, .int, and many others. Edu and Gov websites are almost always trustworthy, but virtually all other domain types are open access, so anyone can own that domain. For this reason, it’s always important to verify the information you find on those types of websites.

Do they cite sources?

Many times, if a news article is verified, they will have links or references somewhere on the page to cite the source of their information. Citations are important because it provides validity to the claims that the author makes in the news story.

Equally as important, you need to know how to read citations. Sources are generally listed at the bottom of the piece or if it’s digital, the author may provide links to sources within the article. If it’s listed at the bottom, the source will be in a single line. These sources could be ordered alphabetically, or as they appear in the content.

Does it agree with what you know is true?

This one may sound a little silly, but it’s a crucial step when evaluating pieces of “news”. For example, let’s imagine that a reputable media source posted an article titled, “The Sky Is Not Blue”. Within the article they cite sources from educated professors and it’s listed on a “.edu” website. Still… this piece may raise some eyebrows. Why is that?

It’s from a verified website with honest content. And they cite honorable sources.

But it does not agree with what you know is true. You likely go outside every day and every day you look up, the sky is blue. Using critical thinking, you can filter through questionable “news stories” and decide if it is honest.

Of course, this is not to say that new information can’t lead you to change opinions or correct pre-conceived notions that you once believed. We all can change our minds and create new views, but remember to use your brain. Regardless of who says it or what site it is posted on, critical thinking helps you sort through fake news.

Can You Recognize Fake News?

Recognizing fake news is a critical part of media literacy. In a world where everything is “true”, it can be challenging to know who is lying. Here are a couple quick worksheets to help you learn how to recognize fake news.

WORKSHEET: How to Identify Fake News in 10 Steps

Use this worksheet to check the piece you’re reading and see if it in fake news. Check ‘yes’ or ‘no’ as you go down the list of 10 questions. At the end, you will likely know if the news is real or fake.

WORKSHEET: Fake News vs. Real News

This is another worksheet that takes you through a list of questions to ask about the content in question as well as follow-up written responses.

Teachers? Are you looking for assignments you can implement into your classroom? Here are a couple group lesson plans you can use to teach your entire class about the dangers of fake news and how to recognize it.

LESSON PLAN: How to Teach Your Students About Fake News

This lesson plan takes one 50-minute class period and is for students, grade 7-12.

LESSON PLAN: Identifying Satire as Fake News

This lesson plan takes tw0 45-minute class periods and is for students, grade 9-12.

Derek Hales

Derek Hales

Editor-in-Chief

Derek Hales is the Editor-in-Chief and Founder of ModernCastle.com. He is a passionate perfectionist when it comes to testing and reviewing products for the home. When he is not testing new products, Derek enjoys golf, tennis, and PC gaming. Derek lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with his wife, Samantha, and poodle, Tibbers.

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