The term Fake News has been a popular phrase following the 2016 election of President Donald Trump. But should children be taught about which news are fake and which are real?

Beth Hewitt, the Director of Conversion at the University of Salford, believes “it is critical that young people know how to spot fake news”.

She says: “Fake news covers the incredulous stories to the more subtle areas such as advertorials and bias / opinion. They can be interpreted in many different ways and this has serious implications for journalism, the reaction to journalism and the verification of stories across all our social media, from YouTube to Instagram and Snapchat to Facebook.”

‘Fake news’ has been circulating social media platforms and often people are likely to share an article without necessarily verifying it first. “When asked if they were aware of having shared fake news, many of the young people said they could have in fact shared fake news stories and this was something that they felt they may have misjudged – mistakenly sharing fake news stories.”

But how does one know which news is fake and which is real?

Beth says: “Our research found that for children and young people it is easier to spot in theory but far less so in practise – this is the key issue. They are savvy when it came to discussing it but less savvy in spotting it – especially the more obtuse and more subtle forms of fake news”, she adds that although young people get what ‘fake news’ mean, it is harder to recognise it online and on social media.

So how could we educate youngsters about the fake news?

“Digital literacy lessons across schools and colleges will be hugely beneficial in supporting young people to navigate their way through real and fake stories and concepts.”

Some of the dangers of fake news according to Beth Hewitt are that young people could: “stop trusting them and in the end they could well switch off altogether and stop taking part in the big political debates, being engaged and a part of the political landscape.”

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