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Teaching Kids Media Smarts During Breaking News

17 de marzo de 2020

Don't believe everything you read -- and other lessons for kids growing up with a 24/7 news cycle.

When big news breaks, it's easy to get caught up in following the news online. But while the internet -- from major news sites toTwitter-- can be a valuable place to find useful information, it also can be the source of misinformation. Helping kids and teens understand the news andhow to separate fact from fictionis an important job for parents and educators. (Learn how kids engage with the news and how they feel about it in Common Sense Media's report,News and America's Kids: How Young People Perceive and Are Impacted by the News.)

Here's some advice parents can offer kids and teens who consume the news:

Remember, breaking news is often wrong.In the rush to cover stories, reporters make mistakes, officials don't always have correct information, and tidbits that sound plausible often get passed around before anyone has checked for accuracy. The most famous example is when theChicago Daily Tribuneprinted "Dewey Defeats Truman" on its front page in 1948 when the truth was actually the opposite.

Use social media wisely.Some say Twitter is agreat source of news in the first few minutesof a tragedy, but after that it just gets messy and largely inaccurate. On the other hand, Facebook can be a great way to connect with friends affected by news and to spread personal news within a more limited circle. For example: "I've heard fromfamily in Florida, and everyone's OK after the hurricaine." (Of course, news links posted by friends on Facebook might contain unverified information, so take them with a grain of salt.)

Be skeptical.If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. After the Boston Marathon bombing, a news outlet reported thatsome runners kept running all the way to the hospitalto donate blood for the victims. Not true. There areplenty of websitesdevoted to debunking fake news stories, such asSnopes,Urban Legends Online,andFactCheck. Visit them to find out whethera story is true.

Stand back;take a break.With social media at your fingertips, it's tempting to weigh in with your opinion or pass along every tidbit that comes along. But restraint is necessary to avoid adding to the noise and confusion. We like the reasonable approach taken byNPR reporter Steve Inskeep, who cautioned listeners during a day of breaking news, "We are collecting dots. It's a day to be careful about connecting them."

Stick with credible news sources.News sources that claim to have all the answers or jump to conclusions about why something happened are just adding to the fray. And remember that cable news channels make money off the news -- the more titillating the story, the more eyeballs who watch andthe more money they make. Make sure you and your kids aren'tfalling victim tofake news.

Keep it age-appropriate.Younger teens and kidsaren't always ready to digest big, tragic news-- especially if the news is aboutkids, such as school shootings or abuse scandals. The constant repetition of information can be overwhelming and confusing for younger kids, and atthe beginning of a news event, parents might not be able to offer any reassuring answers. Kids who are eager to learn more about certain events can checkkid-oriented news sources.

Common Sense Media es una organización independiente sin fines de lucro que ofrece calificaciones imparciales y consejos confiables para que las familias pueden tomar decisiones inteligentes sobre los medios y la tecnología. Mira nuestras calificaciones y recomendaciones en

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