Help Your Kids Understand Real Not Fake News

Real News v’s Fake News? I had an interesting conversation at the dinner table last night with my oldest daughter. The news was on in the background until we sat down to dinner. She pipes up and tells me ‘North Korea is going to bomb Australia’. What?! I didn’t think she was paying attention to the news because she was busy playing. I had to correct her and say ‘no, that’s not true’ and explain in simple terms some geopolitics, which wasn’t easy.

Fast forward today…an article arrived in my in-box from The Conversation, a great website offering really interesting credible articles covering a huge range of topics. The article I read this morning was all about helping our kids differentiate between what is real news versus fake news that can, at times, distract them from making informed and not-bias opinions.

The author puts forward 5 questions our kids can ask themselves when deciding what they are reading is true or false and help parents start the conversation:

‘Find an online post that you consider to be fake news and talk with the child about it. Shape your conversation around these questions:

  • Who made this post?
  • Who do they want to view it?
  • Who benefits from this post and/or who might be harmed by it?
  • Has any information been left out of the post that might be important?
  • Is a reliable source (like a mainstream news outlet) reporting the same news? If they’re not, it doesn’t mean it’s not true, but it does mean you should dig deeper’

5 questions that I can see the benefits of asking, particularly as my children get older, want to understand the world around them and need to make informed judgements, whether for school purposes or life in general.

The author also adds some clues to help children work it out, playing a ‘Spot The Difference Game’

‘These questions are clues for kids that a source may be dodgy:

  • Is the URL or site name unusual? For example, those with a “.co” are often trying to masquerade as real news sites.
  • Is the post low-quality, possibly containing bold claims with no sources and lots of spelling or grammatical errors?
  • Does the post use sensationalist imagery? Women in sexy clothing are popular click bait for unreliable content.
  • Are you shocked, angry or overjoyed by the post? Fake news often strives to provoke a reaction, and if you’re having an intense emotional response then it could be a clue the report isn’t balanced or correct.
  • How is the story structured and what kind of proof does it offer? If it merely repeats accusations against the people involved in an incident without further reporting, such as, there’s probably a better version of the story out there from a more reliable news source.’

Great tools to help children become conscientious future citizens of the world.  So, I hope you enjoy reading the article and as always comments are welcome here or on our Facebook page.


Author: Emma McEnery

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