Educating teenagers to counter fake news

Educating teenagers to counter fake news

Although it may not seem so at first glance, the history of the automobile bears a great resemblance to the appearance of the first mobile phones and the Internet. At the beginning of the last century, the first motor vehicles appeared on the roads of the Western world. However, there were no road signs that organized the existing traffic. No signs were put until the first accidents happened so that people became aware of the need for traffic regulations.

The same can be said for the Internet, mobile phones, WhatsApp, etc. There are a lot of "things" in circulation that still need to be put in order. In other words, we need to establish a code of ethics for their use.

The “accidents” we are facing in the digital world are many, but I would like to highlight two of them reported recently: one is given by the magazine HacerFamilia: "15% of students admit to using their mobile phones in class". The other is published by the newspaper La Vanguardia, and refers to the urgent need - according to the Spanish newspaper - to create a program to help teenagers to detect hoaxes, as a way to counter the rise of so-called fake news.

According to the study quoted by HacerFamilia, "almost 15% of students admit to using a mobile phone in class". That figure should make us to think a little: It means that many parents are just “helicopter parents” and do not pay attention to the fact that they are somehow “oppressing” their children when giving them a mobile phone at an early age. The new generations of children, wrongly called digital natives, show a certain immaturity of their personality for they do not know how to use these devices properly. A guiding parenting is often missing,

A pupil who is hooked with his or her mobile phone during school hours is an easy target for fake news, as any hoax runs like wildfire among young people. As the cell phones are banned at school, the young people read the information they receive quickly and without paying much attention to whether it is true or not, and feeling the pressing need to react, the do without thinking.

For this reason, the project (In)fórmate seems very interesting! It is a project presented by the FAD (Federation of Aid against Drug Addiction) and Google that aims to train 30,000 teenagers (between 14 and 16 years old) so that they can discern the truth from the fake news and thus encourage critical thinking.

If we educate our young people in the truth, over time they will become leading adults. They will not rush to believe whatever they read, or the last news they are told. They will not rush to forward news without first having checked it.

To this end, we have two lines of action. The first one is to be found in the family. We cannot be surprised if children use their mobile phones secretly at school, when there are no rules or standards of use as far as new technologies are concerned in the family. When parents do not give an example, then children follow their rule.

The second place to take action in is the school. Educational resources for the family are beginning to appear more and more, for example this web page from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which offers tips for parents in the digital age, or the Spanish platform for digital education Empantallados, which suggests, among other things, creating a "mobile phone park" at the entrance of the house to avoid their use at family meetings or bedtime, or the Colombian La Familia.info. And, of course, Familyandmedia, the portal that hosts this article of mine for the first time.