There is truth on the net. There are lies. Have you taught your children how to tell the difference?
I’m currently homeschooling my 16-year old. They are right now working on a research paper I assigned. I began to ask myself if my kid has the skills to know, not just how to search, but how to evaluate what’s on a Web page as reputable.
Everyone assumes that kids are more adept with the Web than adults are. The kids will roll their eyes if you try to teach them anything. But those of us over 30 have experience with news media, social media, and fake media. We’ve learned over time that there’s a difference between The Washington Post (usually truthful), Breitbart (slanted), MSNBC (usually truthful but from a slanted perspective), The Onion (Satire), Wikipedia (probably right, but not dependable), and random bloggers . How does a child learn this?
I created a little assignment that looks like this:
Use Google to find the answers to the following questions. In each case write the answer, a link to the source, and why you believe the source is reliable.
- Where was President Obama born?
- How much do Americans spend on cosmetics each year?
- Donald Trump claims that thousands of Muslims rioted and cheered in the streets after the plane crashes on September 11, 2001. Is his claim true?
- What is the total tax revenue of the US federal government?
- How tall is former labor secretary Robert Reich?
- Which bible verses say that homosexuality is wrong?
- What is the mission statement for Facebook?
Some of these are controversial, but that’s the point.
Do this with your child. Sit with them as they do the research, but don’t volunteer anything. Answer the child’s questions. Ask them questions about what they see. Think about questions like “What is a major city newspaper, how can I identify its site, and why would I trust it?” Or “What are the signs that a site is slanted or deceptive?” In the case of Obama’s birthplace, the first few results contradict each other, so how can a researcher tell the difference?
Do schools teach this stuff? Should they?
Now that we can answer questions just by asking Siri or OK Google, when and why should we trust their answers? Who decides what’s true?
Do this and you won’t just help your child learn what the truth is. You’ll learn a lot about truth and lies on the web by seeing through your child’s eyes.