by Marsha Rakestraw

I get a lot of my initial news from social media. But as a humane educator, I’ve been trained to bring my critical thinking skills and my ability to determine the accuracy and credibility of sources to my media consumption.

Our young people spend a lot of time with online media.

A Pew survey notes that 92% of teens go online daily. Many of those teens are using media for up to nine hours a day. And by age 18, 88% of young adults regularly get their news from social media sites.

A recent study by the Stanford Graduate School of Education has discovered that the majority of young people lack essential skills for determining the accuracy, validity, and credibility of news and other media.

For example, 82% of middle school students couldn’t differentiate sponsored content (advertising) from actual news.

In the study, 7,800 students from 12 states, in middle school, high school, and college, were given assessments to help determine their critical-thinking and digital-literacy skills around various kinds of content.

Some of the assessments included:

  • being able to distinguish an ad from a news story. (middle schoolers)
  • being able to differentiate a news article from an opinion column. (middle schoolers)
  • being able to determine whether a sponsored post or a news story is more reliable. (high schoolers)
  • being able to evaluate the trustworthiness of a photo posted on a photo-sharing site. (high schoolers)
  • being able to tell whether a partisan website is trustworthy. (college students)
  • being able to verify the veracity of a claim about a controversial topic. (college students)

Read an executive summary of the study here.

This unfortunate reality has been compounded by the proliferation of “fake news” sites and stories.

It’s clear from evidence such as this study, the proliferation of fake news, and the advent of “post-truth” as word of the year that both young people and adults need the lens and skills of humane education.

Two of the essential elements of humane education are being able to obtain accurate information while being able to discern fact from opinion, and developing deep-thinking skills (such as critical thinking).

Here are a few resources that can help us hone our skills in discerning accurate, credible information and determining whether resources have bias, misleading statements, etc.