Most students queried in a Stanford study said they had a hard time differentiating news articles from ads or identifying where they came from.
"Many people assume that because young people are fluent in social media they are equally perceptive about what they find there," said Professor Sam Wineburg, the lead author of the report and founder of the Stanford History Education Group. "Our work shows the opposite to be true."
Stanford tested over 7,800 teenagers on civic ability reasoning, or "the ability to judge the credibility of information that foods young people's smartphones, tablets, and computers" over a period of a year-and-a-half.
Field-testing study sites included under-resourced, inner-city schools in Los Angeles and well-resourced schools in suburbs outside of Minneapolis. College assessments were administered online at six different universities including Stanford and consisted of open web searches. Researchers included middle schoolers, high schoolers and college students.
"Overall, young people's ability to reason about the information on the Internet can be summed up in one word: bleak," reads the report. Our "digital natives" may be able to fit between Facebook and Twitter while simultaneously uploading a selfie to Instagram and texting a friend. But when it comes to evaluating information that flows through social media channels, they are easily duped."
Fake news was rampant during the 2016 presidential election, especially during the final three months of the campaign according to a BuzzFeed News analysis. Top-performing fake election news stories on the social media site Facebook produced more engagement than top stories from other news outlets, including the New York Times, The Washington Post, NBC News and Huffington Post.
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