Students Struggle to Distinguish News From Fiction

POST-TRUTH TEENS: The Facebook “fake-news” situation is problematic. Even more alarming is new research that shows most students don’t know when so-called news is false. A study released today from Stanford University, “Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning,” examines how teens evaluate information they find online.

Researchers surveyed nearly 8,000 students from middle school to college, asking them to complete tasks such as distinguishing between a news article and sponsored content or an opinion column, and explaining why a tweet many or may not be a useful source of information.

“Overall, young people’s ability to reason about the information on the Internet can be summed up in one word: bleak,” the report says. Specifically, more than 80 percent of students thought sponsored content was a real news story. Less than one-third of college students fully explained how a Tweet from liberal advocacy group MoveOn.org might be influenced by the organization’s political agenda.

The researchers say they hope their work can be used for spreading awareness about the problem and in helping instructors develop curriculum to help students develop online reasoning skills. The Wall Street Journal has more.

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