Information Literacy Now: Most Students Can't Spot Fake News

The Wall Street Journal is reporting on a new study out of Stanford that shows that preteens and teens are clueless about evaluating the accuracy and trustworthiness of "news."

Some 82% of middle schoolers couldn’t distinguish between an ad labeled “sponsored content” and a real news story on a website, according to a Stanford University study of 7,804 students from middle school through college. 

The study, set for release Tuesday, is the biggest so far on how teens evaluate information they find online. Many students judged the credibility of newsy tweets based on how much detail they contained or whether a large photo was attached, rather than on the source.

More than two out of three middle-schoolers couldn’t see any valid reason to mistrust a post written by a bank executive arguing that young adults need more financial-planning help. And nearly four in 10 high-school students believed, based on the headline, that a photo of deformed daisies on a photo-sharing site provided strong evidence of toxic conditions near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan, even though no source or location was given for the photo.

As mentioned in a previous post, librarians are at the forefront of the war on fake news. Our main mission is to teach information literacy. Or maybe the correct terminology is that librarians should be on the forefront of the war on fake news. Fewer schools now have librarians, who traditionally taught research skills. And media literacy has slipped to the margins in many classrooms, to make room for increased instruction in basic reading and math skills.

Many think that the value of librarians is decreasing now that "everything is online." However, the fake news phenomena is a perfect example of why, in this day and age, librarians are more important than ever.

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