As a Baby Boomer, I spent my formative years listening to the news with a healthy dose of cynicism. I grew up when librarians taught us research skills. Gone are those days since libraries have been replaced by Google and other search engines
Millennials spent their formative years surrounded by personal technology.
If they had a question, they relied on the Internet to provide them the answer. As parents, Millennials still rely on Google, only now it’s to provide parenting guidelines. Instead of calling a Grandparent or neighbor, they type in their question and wait for the answer to pop up.
That works until the volume of information overwhelms them. Even harder is to wade through those piles of information and sort out the junk from the valuable. What is accurate? What is reliable? As a parent, you want to know you’ve got your hands on the real facts, not fake news that is meant to confuse or prey on emotions.
Ironically, it will be easier for the children of these same Millennials to spot fake news. A number of schools now realize that it’s important to teach their students how to be savvy about believing different sources of information. Educators call it “media literacy.” According to a Stanford University study, many students judge the credibility of a newsy article based on how many shares it received or whether a photo was attached.
Millennial parents will need to be diligent, persistent, determined, and plucky as they pan the Internet in their search for gold—i.e. credible and reliable information. In other words, they will need to develop a grit-up mindset to persevere in identifying information that can not only harm them, but can also create dissension and discord.
Here’s how fake news and misinformation makes it harder for Millennial parents, and what they can do about it:
1. Think Like Fact Checkers
Snopes started exposing false claims and fake news since the 1990’s. It’s become more prolific now that anyone with access to a phone or computer can publish information online. Instead of reading information and analyzing the content, fact checkers are researchers who can drill down and get to the truth in a couple of minutes.
Millennials grew up with computers and relied upon them for homework assignments. They researched their papers using the Internet and received great grades. In other words, they trusted the information they downloaded.
A good historian never accepts anything at face-value. Neither does a good FBI agent. Nor does a good parent who happened to grow up at a time when they could trust the information obtained on the Internet.
How To Make It Work For You: As fake news and misinformation has become mainstream, our mindset needs to change to balance this trend. Historians and investigators are two groups of people who read information and then immediately move away from the original text, open up a series of tabs in their browser, and start to dig down.
2. Monitor Your Emotions
As a parent, your child’s welfare is paramount. Scam artists know this and will prey on your emotions. Clickbait and fake news strive for extreme reactions. If what you are reading provokes an emotion like anger or smugness, it could be a sign that you’re about to become a victim.
FactCheck.org investigated a story that claimed Donald Trump told People magazine in 1998: “If I were to run, I’d run as a Republican. They’re the dumbest group of voters in the country. They believe anything on Fox News. I could lie and they’d still eat it up. I bet my numbers would be terrific.” FactCheck.org found no such quote in People‘s archives from 1998, or any other year. And a public relations representative for the magazine confirmed the quote didn’t exist.
Comedian Amy Schumer contributed to fake news when she admitted the Trump quote was fake. She said, “Yes this quote is fake but it doesn’t matter.”
How To Make It Work For You: Mike Caulfield, Washington State University, warns that when you feel a strong emotion, and that emotion pushes you to share a “fact” with others, stop! His research has shown that anything that appeals to the lizard brain is designed to short-circuit our critical thinking.
3. Check The Author And Source
Fake stories can also be sniffed out by doing a little research on the author. Even more suspicion should be thrown at a story that has no byline at all.
Many times bogus stories will cite official, or official-sounding, sources. But, once you look into it, the source doesn’t back up the claim.
It’s always important to track down the original source of the information. The links in the content should allow you to dig deeper until you do uncover the original source. Once you get to the source of the claim, read what other people are saying about the author, the source, etc.
How To Make It Work For You: These days, most credible reporters and authors have websites you can check out. If they claim to have won some award, open another tab on your browser and check it out. Look for unusual URLs or site names. Many times sites try to appear legitimate news sites by adding .co on the end. They are fake sites.
It takes time and effort to identify fake news but that’s why it requires grit. Millennials are not the only ones taken in by this growing trend. It happens to all of us. We all need to develop a grit-up mindset to persevere and take the extra steps needed to protect ourselves from fake news and misinformation.
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