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What’s real, what’s not? With the younger generation’s constant exposure to the deluge of information online, knowing to sift out the truth from what’s fake new is crucial. “And with the prevalence of fake news online especially on social media sites, people can become desensitised to it” says Families for Life council member, Claire Nazar, 46.

Even parents themselves can be the guilty of sharing and circulating posts about fake news. Says Mrs Nazar, a lawyer by profession: “Sometimes, parents circulate such messages out of fear or protectiveness for their children, or even a sense of public duty.”

However, parents can educate themselves—and their children on how to discern real news from what’s fake. Here are some tips on how you and your child assess whether a piece of news is legitimate—or not:

1) Expose children to reliable new sources

Introducing children to well-known, established new sources is the first step in teaching media literacy. For example, your local newspaper will most likely print news that is real. A good example of this would be The Straits Times or Today which also have an online presence.

Internationally, you can also look at websites such as CNN or BBC for reliable news. These sources can also be found on Twitter and Facebook for quick, real time viewing of news. Show children the difference between actual news—and what’s satire. Satirical news sites are written in a way that projects authenticity, but is not grounded in fact.

Tip: Don’t forget to make sure that you follow the correct sources. Most real sources are marked as verified on social media, usually with a blue tick or star next to their names.

2) Spot The Difference

A fun way to teach young children on how to spot fake news would be to play “Spot the Difference”. Fake news websites can appear similar to credible sites, but if you look into their URLs, it may end in a “.co” instead of the usual “.com”. Also look out for posts which can be deemed as low-quality, meaning that it has really bold claims but no real evidence or sources to back its assertions. Another telltale of fake news would be errors in spelling or grammar, which usually aren’t up to par with real news sites.

Tip: Spend a few minutes with your children going through some fake news websites and point out the differences that make it a fake article, encouraging them to find some differences on their own.

3) 5 Questions

Whenever your children come across an article they think might be fake, teach them to ask the following five questions:

i. Who made this post?

Think about the website that published this post. Are they considered a reliable source, as mentioned in the first point? Hosana Nazar, Mrs Nazar’s 20-year-old daughter, makes it a point to check a news source before she hits “share”. She says: “I usually get my news from a newspaper app. I don't really get it from social media sites, which may not be reliable. Whenever I see an article on Facebook, I always check the source it came from, which my mum has taught me.”

ii. Who is the audience?

Was this written for a specific audience? News pieces can be written for specific audiences such as political parties or they could be classified as satire and written for humour.

iii. Who benefits from this?

Does the news company seem familiar to you? Is the company’s mission or vision easy to find on their website? If a company seems sketchy with little to no information about itself on the website, it is possible that it could be fake.

iv. Was anything left out?

If you search the information in the article online, is there information missing found in other articles, but not the one you are reading? Does it seem like there is no evidence or sources present in the news article? Then this article could possibly be fake.

v. How did you get to it?

Was it shared to you by friends or family? Did you chance upon it on your Facebook or Twitter feed? Just because an article has a lot of shares online, does not necessarily mean that it is true. In fact, the more sensational a fake news story is, the higher the chance of it being shared.

Tip: If an article provokes some kind of reaction or strong emotion, it is also possible that this is a fake news article. Fake news are usually meant to evoke strong emotions such as shock, anger, sadness or even joy.

Tags: Child Education