This is pretty spooky. Researchers at the Stanford University School of Education tested 7,800 middle school students in 12 states on their ability to evaluate online information as either credible or false.
The researcher said they were “shocked” and “dismayed” by what they found and the students’ proclivity to be duped to be “a very real threat to democracy.”
I’m hoping Hawaii teachers who see today’s column will insist on critical thinking exercises in their classrooms.
The project didn’t set any high-level requirement for analysis of what the tested students were given; just a reasonable ability to identity fake accounts from real ones, activist groups from neutral sources and ads from articles.
More than 80 percent of middle schoolers believed that ‘sponsored content’ was a real news story.
“Many assume that because young people are fluent in social media they are equally savvy about what they find there,” the researchers wrote. “Our work shows the opposite.
The young people tended to credulously accept information as presented, even without any supporting evidence or citations. Most couldn’t tell a real and fake news source apart on Facebook. They didn’t ask where the information came from. They didn’t verify it. They simply accepted it as fact.
They’d say “it was on Facebook.”
Most of the tested students couldn’t identify the difference between a mainstream and fringe source.
The solution, the researchers concluded, is to teach students — in fact all Internet users — to read like fact checkers.
Some lawmakers in Colorado are proposing legislation requiring the teaching of school children to differentiate between fake and credible media sources.
“Whenever somebody starts off a sentence with ‘I read somewhere that this happened’, you think, wait a minute,” State Rep. Barbara McLachlan says. “I think we all need to be a little distrustful about where people are getting their information.”
The bill would establish an online bank of media resources in the Colorado Department of Education from which teachers can learn how to build media literacy into their curriculum.
An online bank of resources has already been established the state legislature passed a measure two years ago to create a task force to study media literacy.
It’s something we need to pay attention to now that our young people — and many oldsters as well — seem to be getting their raw information from internet sites such as Breitbart News, One America News, Gummy Post and Underground News Report.