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New Study Shows a Lot of Students Can't Tell Fake News From Real News

Nov 24, 2016 06:26 AM EST

It appears the problem with fake news on the internet is worse than we thought. A new Stanford study shows that teenagers are likely to absorb social media content without considering its source. 

Despite a remarkable fluency on social media and smartphone usage, it appears teenagers are often clueless about the accuracy of trustworthiness of the news they read. 

A Stanford University-based research encompassing 8,000 students observed their ability to distinguish news from advertisements, and to check websites of hate groups and of mainstream professional organizations.

Results showed that roughly 82-percent of middle-schoolers could not distinguish "sponsored content" and a real news story.

According to tthe Wall Street Journal, this is the biggest study so far regarding how teenagers evaluate information online.

The study appears to show that students judge the credibility of news tweets based on details, and whether there are photos in the post.

Apparently, more than two out of three middle-schoolers do not see reasons to mistrust a post written by an executive that argues that young adults need help in financial planning. Meanwhile, four in 10 high school students that a photo of deformed daisies is enough evidence of toxic conditions near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan despite the lack of sources.This appears to be an alarming case of teenagers being susceptible to propaganda news.

However, Facebook and Google are already taking steps to prevent sites that are disseminating fake news. Meanwhile, Twitter is starting to take steps to avoid harassment by users.

However, this may not be enough to get rid of fake news, deceptive advertising, satirical websites and misleading articles. Regardless, the study also appears to cite that schools must start teaching students how to judge the credibility of news stories, also called "media literacy."

Teenagers ought to develop this skill as the study also found out that by 18-years-old, young adults regularly get news from Facebook and other social media. This risks creating an "echo chamber effect," as websites tend to feed users news items similar to those they have read before. 

Parents can also help children find good and accessible content online by blocking inappropriate websites, or not allowing them to use social media at all.

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