Fake News: What is it, why is it dangerous and how can you identify it online?

What is fake news? 

Fake news consists of misinformation or hoaxes that are deliberately published on newspapers, television, radio and social media sites for the purposes of: misinforming people, humiliating, bullying and causing hurt, financial gain or to push a political agenda. 

In the time of social media, it’s all over the place and it’s obscuring the line between actuality and fictional news. Be that as it may, the question now is how can we expect children to be able to spot fake news online when we as adults are failing? 

The dangers of fake news 

Media and the news influences the way we think and ultimately helps us make decisions that impacts our lives and that of the world in general. These are some of the impact/dangers that fake news cause: 

  • Financial loss for a business 
  • Affects government operations and elections 
  • Cyberbullying – a victim of cyberbullying can experience suicidal thoughts, they can also isolate themselves from people and can perform poorly at school or at their job 
  • Defamation of character  
  • Employment loss 

Ways to spot fake news: 

  1. It is important to look at the source of the news or content. Pay attention to the URL – if it looks suspicious then there is a high possibility that the source cannot be trusted. 
  2. If the news source that you are reading does not seem familiar or secure or you have never signed up to receive email alerts for it, it could be a clue that the news is not true. 
  3. If the journalist, blogger or publication agency publishing the story is notoriously known for producing fake news, then it would be best for you to research about the story from different trusted sources. 
  4. Photoshopped images or videos are also an indication of fake news – use a tool like Google Reverse Image Search to identify if the image is photoshopped or fake.

Things parents can do to educate their children about fake news. 

The best thing that any parent can do to protect and educate their children frpm fake news is to teach them to be curious individuals who think critically and question the things they see.  

  • Inform children that not all sources can be trusted. The best way to spot this on social media accounts is to check for verification of blue badges (Twitter and Instagram) on the account. Official social accounts are more likely to cross-check facts before publishing anything. 
  • Always inform children to fact check anything that they choose to share online. Like any gossip, fake news has the tendency for spreading more quickly compared to the actual factual news. 
  • It is no secret that we always want to believe that a story is true, however, that is not always the case. Talk with your children about bias and the force it has to change what individuals think, say and do. Urge them to get a reasonable viewpoint by checking multiple news sources, not simply depend on one. 

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