How MediaWise Is Helping Teens Be Media Savvy

Fake news is nothing new, but in the digital age, it can spread like a virus. There is so much information out there and anyone can post what they feel like. Teenagers who are digital citizens, interact with a large quantity of information online. They make decisions based on it and are easily influenced by it. You might think teens are more digitally savvy, but research shows they can just as easily be fooled by misleading online content.

Black Teenager / Mediawise

[READ: How To Be A Digital Savvy Parent In 2019 ]

How can teenagers identify fake news

MediaWise helps teens figure out what’s real and what’s not by teaching them fact-checking skills that professional journalists use. According to Katy Byron, the Editor and Program Manager of MediaWise, if misinformation online is a disease, then MediaWise is the Red Cross. their work is based on a curriculum the Stanford History Education Group is currently writing and testing, which will be available for any middle school and high school teachers to download online for free later this year.

How Mediawise is going to help teenagers identify fake news

Katy Byron, the Editor and Program Manager of MediaWise, recounts their research and the impact they have made on teenagers so far.

To kick off the new year, we spoke to 2,000 students and teachers at three schools in Houston, while 3,000 more watched online in class. We introduced them to tools like Reverse Google Image Search to help fact check the origin of a photo, shared tips and tricks on what to look out for, and heard from students and teachers about their concerns and experiences.

At Memorial High School, we spent the day with more than 600 students and had them do their own fact-checking online, using real-world examples of posts on social media. They voted through a live Instagram poll on whether or not they thought a post was legit.

Most got the first few examples wrong, but as their fact-checking skills improved, got more right. And at Spring Forest Middle School, less than half the 8th grade class of 300 students could tell whether a viral photo claiming Jason Derulo falling down the stairs at the Met Gala was fake. Afterwards, students said they’ll do more research before sharing information online and felt these skills should be taught in all classrooms by their teachers.

[READ: Characteristics of the 21st Century Teen]


MediaWise wants students to lead this work themselves.

They launched the MediaWise Teen Fact-Checking Network: a stellar crew of 24 students from across the country ranging from 15 to 18 years old. They’ll create original fact-checking videos for YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to help reach target teen audience.

MediaWise multimedia reporters Allison Graves and Hiwot Hailu are leading this squad and guiding them on our quest to “fact-check the Internet.” This crew is the real deal. Many work for their high school newspaper or TV station. Madeleine Katz, a 16-year-old from St. Petersburg, Florida with a popular Instagram account reviewing young adult books, joined because she feels strongly about the mission to empower her generation to be informed decision makers. Yasmeen Saadi from Kansas joined because she thinks it’s hard for teens to determine real from fake news on the internet.

MediaWise also partnered with best-selling author John Green to create a 10 part series on his CrashCourse YouTube channel called Navigating Digital Information, which launched last week. Each episode is chock-full of fact-checking tips and tricks and gives a sneak peek into the curriculum that will be available in the fall.

Teens want to learn how to discern fact from fiction online and teachers want new tools to help them teach their students to be smarter consumers of information. If your school is interested in MediaWise, or you want to be a part of the Teen Fact Checking Network,  check out their website to learn more and if you see something suspicious online, tag them on social media with #isthislegit and their handle @MediaWise and they will check it out.

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