In November, Stanford University researchers shared their “bleak” and “dismaying” findings on research they conducted with 7,804 youth regarding how they interpreted information on the internet. They asked the students to discern fake stories from real stories, activist groups from neutral groups, and ads from articles. They found that the respondents – “digital natives” who simultaneously Tweet, Twitter and upload selfies while texting multiple friends – were unable to separate truthful information from false. The participating youth, middle school, high school, and college students from 12 states, were easily duped, ignorant of their deficiencies, and clueless on how to conduct accurate fact checks.
Despite the efforts of Facebook, Google and Twitter to stem fake news, the problem will only get worse. The issue is not new, as humans have a long history of presenting false information as fact. What is alarming today is the exploding number of deceptions and lies, and the inability of those receiving them to recognize those that are false. Examples include inserting untruths about bottled water (it is better for you) alongside of factual information (there is no difference) and websites that masquerade under misleading names (see Daniel Levitin’s TED Talk for a more detailed discussion).
Fake news comes from many sources, and assessing information that is entwined with lies, and identifying misinformation convincingly presented as fact, requires using the skills BrainWise teaches. The 10 Wise Ways can be used to help students figure out how to spot fake news, respond rationally, and teach what they have learned to others.
BrainWise instructors know that students who have mastered the 10 Wise Ways are equipped with tools that help them use executive functions to assess and analyze information. Preteens and teens who have mastered BrainWise know how to recognize Red Flags that warn them if something does not seem quite right. They know how to use their Constellation of Support to seek legitimate fact sources, and understand why that in order to stop and think, they need to stay low, or off, their Emotions Elevators. These steps will allow them to Separate Facts from Opinions by Asking Questions, Identifying Choices, and Considering the Consequences of each choice Now, Later, and Affecting Others (CNL)/CAO). This process makes them aware of why it is important to take others’ points of view, and helps them integrate this knowledge into their communication.
The serious issue of fake news provides an opportunity for BrainWise instructors to use examples from websites, videos, social media and printed materials to discuss how thinking skills override Lizard Brain reactions. The BrainWise Problem Solving Worksheets offer a self-directed guide on how to apply the 10 Wise Ways to asses assess fake news