At present, and with social networks and the Internet, there are many virtual hoaxes to which children and adolescents have access and that as soon as they read it … they believe it. Sometimes, even adults find it difficult to know if a news story is true or false, for this reason it is important that both parents and children learn to differentiate between real and false news of everything that comes out on the Internet.
Most adults know that not everything they read on the Internet is true, but children and adolescents are much more gullible. They are more likely to create ‘fake news’ and have trouble distinguishing ads, entertainment… from news. Just because today’s teens are digital natives doesn’t mean they grasp basic media literacy. Many of them don’t understand how to think critically about the content they are viewing.
The dangers of not recognizing fake news
Teenagers spend a lot of time glued to their mobile devices and are bombarded with ads, news and messages on social media throughout the day. When children are not smart enough to recognize how the media affects them, or they do not understand the messages they are absorbing, they are likely to be vulnerable to a variety of problems.
Here are some dangers that threaten teens when they don’t realize that not all the things they see are true:
- Body dissatisfaction from seeing models with unrealistic bodies or retouched images that they believe are real.
- The ignorance of the consumer. Teens don’t notice aggressive ads to sell more, so they can buy products they don’t need.
- Power stereotypes. The media often stereotype people based on gender, religion, or ethnicity, and teens believe what they see.
- Society bias. Prejudices are enhanced.
- Health problems. In marketing they use a variety of tricks to entice people to think that unhealthy behavior is a good idea. The consumption of alcoholic beverages can be described as ‘a good option’ and junk food can be marketed as ‘healthy’. Teens are more likely to engage in these unhealthy behaviors if they don’t recognize the strategies advertisers use.
How to teach to differentiate what is false from what is not on the Internet
It is necessary to talk with adolescents so that they know what the news is, which is true, which is not, how to discover it and learn how the media works. Some ideas to follow are:
- Encourage critical thinking. Encourage your child to question what he is reading.
- Discuss advertising techniques. Marketing can be very aggressive.
- Talk about people’s motives for creating misleading content and advertising. Everything is based on selling and making money, they do not care about the health or well-being of others, they just want to enrich themselves with bait headlines or false quality ads.
- Teach your child to compare information. It teaches you to contrast information about something in particular, to seek criticism and expert opinions. You must learn to verify the stories by looking for the original sources.
- Monitor your teens’ internet use. Find out what sites your teenager sees, what social networks he uses … in short, monitor his activity on the Internet. So you can talk directly about what affects you.
- Look at the internet together. Sit down with your child and review popular news stories to find the differences between the real thing and sponsored content.