We are 10 months away from what will certainly be a contentious election, and candidates are spending millions of dollars every week to catch our attention and tempt us to engage on social media. Many people find themselves reading and sharing information that may or may not be accurate. How can we help our kids learn to decipher facts from fake news? I just recently learned about an incredible organization called MediaWise that aims to help you and your teenager.
MediaWise is a “groundbreaking digital media literacy project that’s teaching millions of teens nationwide” and can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tik Tok, and YouTube. Just search for the username @MediaWise or you can see tons of their work when you use the hashtag #IsThisLegit. MediaWise has a network of fact checkers across the country that quickly post content to help clearly show which news stories are reliable. One of their ambassadors is the author John Green, who offers an excellent 10-part video series on YouTube to help you navigate digital information. I highly recommend that you watch it with your kids and talk about your thoughts and experiences together.
MediaWise offers clear and helpful tips that are put into easy terms. I think we could all benefit from a healthy dose of “lateral reading,” their term for fact-checking a news story by looking at other sources to see if the facts differ from the original version. If there is only one media outlet focusing on a particular issue, it may not be a fully verified story or could be altogether incorrect. They discuss what makes sources automatically seem suspicious and untrustworthy, like spelling errors or garbled website names. They also cover how to spot misinformation in both images that have been Photoshopped as well as deep fake videos, which are expected to dangerously increase in frequency since the technology to create them is readily available. In a time when we have more information than ever at our fingertips, we must learn how to sort through the junk to get to the good stuff.
If your child’s school or group would be interested in learning more from MediaWise, reach out and see if they have ambassadors in your area, or your teen can even volunteer to help out! MediaWise has a goal to reach 1,000,000 teenagers in 2020, with half of those being in underserved communities. You can email your request (and also story recommendations) to [email protected]
Here are three more resources that I found interesting and helpful:
- This super detailed chart of media outlets organized by their partisanship, veracity, and fairness. While I am not endorsing it as the absolute and only way to gauge your media diet, I found it to be thorough and well organized.
- This podcast was where I first heard all about MediaWise’s mission. You can either listen or read the transcript. If you have one hour of time to listen, this can be a great way to absorb a lot of information.
- This article goes into great detail about the increase in fact-checking that Facebook has instituted over the last year. It is helpful to better understand the process, but we also must acknowledge that this rise in checking is only needed because of those who purposely put misleading and false stories out on Facebook to stoke division and cloud the truth.
As parents, we want to model for our teenagers that there are healthy and responsible ways to engage with social media and understand things happening in the world. I genuinely hope that these tools can help us all find sources of news that we can trust and rely on when there is so much at stake. We would love for you to let us know in the comments if you or your teen are following MediaWise’s tips and how it impacts the way you engage with social media.