Will Digital Literacy Obliterate Fake News?

fake news

If you think you’re having a hard time deciphering between true stories and fake news, try to understand how it must be for our world’s young students. Digital media continually becomes a larger influence in their lives at school and at home. How do they know what information is real and what stories are written only to persuade, purposely misinform, or exploit? The answer is digital literacy.

The preponderance of fake news has created two new phenomena: a new focus on digital literacy, and a multi-level commitment to raising standards of digital media. The growing concern about rampant fake news stories has initiated a global educational movement. The goal is to teach children and young adults how to develop skills in media decision making. This includes research skills and awareness development of the potential harm a viral post or video can cause.

One of the biggest challenges to overcoming the problem of fake news websites and posts is the viral-ability. Often, before a fake news story can be called out, it has already flooded the Internet. This is due to the tremendous reach and speed of social media sharing.digital literacy

What Is Digital Literacy?

Digital literacy can be a number of things. On one hand, it is a necessary ingredient in succeeding in today’s job marketplace. You must know the ins and outs of social media marketing, blogging and website SEO to succeed in business. Not only must you be well versed in all of these, but you must also be adaptable to change. As technology continually pushes the boundaries of new Internet and social media options.

But on the other hand, digital media refers to a set of skills that enable a person to become more savvy, safe and intelligent with Internet content.  Digital literacy, as it is seen in schools across the globe today, teaches our young people the skills and habits they need to navigate the complicated and ever changing digital scenery.

How Is Digital Literacy Becoming a Mainstay in Schools?

You’ve probably seen a post in social media from a young person in your family or circle of friends, that goes something like this:  ‘Please share so I can see how quickly my post can reach people exponentially” Or something to that effect. That is an example of teaching digital literacy skills in our educational system. Kids learn first hand how quickly a picture or post can go viral by directly experiencing it themselves.

Having a digital literacy program is fast becoming a standard in middle level and high schools, as shown in an recent article by National Public Radio (NPR). They introduce us to Patricia Hunt, a teacher at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Virgina. As a complement to her government studies classes, Hunt is helping to pilot a brand new digital literacy curriculum: The Checkology Virtual Classroom, which schools can access through the News Literacy Project (NLP) website. The NLP site is a collaboration with FaceBook that deals with the problem of fake news flooding the Internet.

What Are Kids Learning About Fake News?

Within the curriculum, students analyze viral ads, stories, and posts and learn ways to decipher legitimate content from fake news. There are three major parts to the program, including teacher-led instruction, interactive classes with professional journalists, and finally, an independent project that integrates all their newly learned digital literacy skills.

As an example, when studying news stories to determine their validity, students are taught to look for certain attributes, including a provocative headline and a verifiable byline. They also will research the post’s original site to see if the other content is professional and valid. The skills enable kids to determine whether a site is legitimate, well known and reliable. Then, they can come to their own informed decisions.

What Digital Literacy Means for the Future of Digital Marketing

Whether we like it or not, many people rely on fake news to bring in views, likes, and ad dollars. Teaching kids about digital literacy is not the only threat to the livelihood of these people. Sites that have a fake news checker are popping up by the day. This is in response to the many fake news generator sites that help you develop a funny or shocking meme. Sites like these may help you create graphics that entertain and again, bring in ad monies, but they’re actually feeding the fake news phenomenon.

Nowadays, kids learn from an early age how to use some of the top fact checking sites, including Hoax Slayer, Politifacts, and FactCheck.org, who published this handy three-minute video about how to tell fact from fiction:

Digital literacy programs are fast becoming integrated into schools worldwide. As a result, our next generation will have the tools needed to make intelligent, fact-based decisions in the digital world.

So, when you are devising a digital marketing strategy for your business, be forward thinking. Include the most authentic and fact-based content possible. It can still be entertaining and valuable to your audience. But companies relying on click bait and fake news will have to face the next generation of Internet users. This coming wave of savvy consumers will know the difference between real and fake.

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  • Steve Hammill

    Not to be a stick in the mud, but laziness and catchy headlines are more appealing than identifying fake news; and you can’t stop stupidity. …and then their are the biases or conflicts of interest of the fact-checkers themselves.

    “Digital literacy” programs may help but probably not much, after all, creating fake news may be the second oldest profession. Tongue just slightly in cheek