CNN recently launched a “Facts First” campaign to remind people that facts do exist, and that, “An apple is not a banana.”( http://www.thedrum.com/news/2017/10/23/cnn-proves-apple-not-banana-fake-news-ad-drive) Apparently, no matter how often someone might suggest it, an apple is not another name for a banana, a different form of a banana, or a substitute for a banana . . .So why is CNN running this ad? Perhaps because one recent poll found that 46% of Americans believe that the “mainstream media” report fake news, i.e., that they do not tell the truth about events and issues. (https://www.politico.com/story/2017/10/18/trump-media-fake-news-poll-243884, accessed Nov. 13, 2017).
How did we get here? One explanation could be that the concept of “truth” has been conflated with the idea of “agreement”. Kids already seem affected, not by what is true, but by the level of approval they receive for postings on social media. False information slinks in. And frequently, falsehoods have what the comedian Stephen Colbert has called “truthiness”, which seems to be good enough for a lot of people these days. It’s a problem!
We know, objectively, that a lot of the information pushed on social media IS actually and verifiably false. Yet, both adults and children have difficulty telling the difference between fake news stories and real ones. (https://www.commonsensemedia.org/research/news-and-americas-kids-infographic, accessed Nov. 15, 2017). Is intellectual freedom meaningless in this climate? What can children’s librarians to do to help kids navigate the onslaught of false information? Here are a few suggestions:
- Become familiar with a web evaluation tool such as CARS (evaluate credibility, accuracy, reasonableness, and factual support). A similar tool, CRAAP, was developed by librarians at California State University, Chico, (Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose). (https://srpubliclibrary.org, accessed Nov. 15, 2017). Choose one and promote it!
- Examine fake news sites to highlight how easy it is to fool people and how difficult it can be to evaluate materials. Make it a game! For example, National Geographic offers real and fake news stories and asks whether readers can distinguish them. Can you? https://kids.nationalgeographic.com/explore/ngk-sneak-peek/april-2017/real-or-fake/
- Familiarize children with fact-checking websites such as www.PolitiFact.com and Snopes.com. Extra points when they use them!
- Show kids that differing viewpoints can be based on the same set of basic facts. One interesting tool, allsides.com, features headlines on the same stories from liberal, conservative and nonpartisan publications. Older children can begin to discuss the concept of “personal bias”. Can you identify yours?
- Support kids’ freedoms of speech and intellectual inquiry, but insist that they support their views and arguments with facts and data.
- And finally, let’s all try to set a good example in our communities by verifying information and sources before re-posting, retweeting, forwarding, or clicking “like”.
Additional resources worth a look:
- Reading Rockets (http://www.readingrockets.org/article/developing-research-and-information-literacy
- Common Sense Media (https://www.commonsensemedia.org/news-and-media-literacy/how-do-i-start-teaching-media-literacy-to-my-preschooler)
- School Library Journal, “Teaching Information Literacy Now” by Laura Gardner, November 2016.
ALSC IF Committee