Category Archives: fake news

Stay Ahead of Misinformation – 5 Ways to Combat Fake News

fake news

Stay ahead of misinformation  5 ways to combat fake news 

 Finding information in this increasingly digital world has never been easier. Our mobile phones dictate top headlines before we even get out of bed, and even our routers can perform complex searches via voice. We see the impact of this easy access on both our consumption and the sharing of informationJust as it’s easy for us to perform a quick search and send the relevant results to our social groups, it’s also simple for bad actors to create and post fake news on seemingly legitimate platforms. In times of uncertainty, it is natural to go online in search of facts, or the latest update. Now is great time to brush up on your digital hygiene and best practices to stay ahead of evolving threats 

Fake news 

As we’ve learned this year, a lot can change very quickly. We all want to stay up to date on worldwide trends, announcements, or even the elections. This expanded focus on current events opens an opportunity for bad actors. Panic-inducing rumors can be labeled as sensational at best. However, there are malicious promises made via phishing scamthat attempt to hook worried and confused consumers into credit card fraud or other payment schemes. Sticking to legitimate news sources is one of the easiest ways to avoid such traps.  

Chain mail craze 

Not only should you validate your personal newsfeed, you should also hold your social networks to this sanitized standard. While well-intentioned, rumors and fake news often spread through the social grapevine e.g. “my friend saw this on WeChat” or “look at what someone sent me on Facebook.” These updates may feel more relatable since we’re hearing them from someone we know, but keep in mind that social media chain mail is often lacking in factual accuracy. By verifying what you’re see against legitimate information sources, you can help family and friends stay both diligent and in the know.  

Dear Sir/Madam” 

Phishing scams also come out in full force during moments of public panic. We’ve seen numerous spoofed emails and text messages that claim to be from local governments, hospitals, or even retailers encouraging targets to take action on urgent items. These notices range from falsified instructions for claiming relief checks to scheduling medical check-upsSome of these phishing emails may be easy to spot as fakes, but the sensitivity of the current environment may cloud our judgment. If you have any doubts about the legitimacy of these messages, you can always reach out to the known institution through official channels to verify.  

Charity imposters 

One of the great things about extraordinary moments like these is the outpouring of compassion and empathy from the global community. Sadlycybercriminals take advantage of this generosity as wellBad actors have stood up fake charity sites and platforms in the name of donating resources to underserved populations or supporting researchIn reality, these may be scams, and any donations received will never see the light of day. It is a best practice to always research charity organizations before you contribute – especially now. 

Protect yourself from misinformation 

Take a look at some tips and tools below that you can use to stay ahead of misinformation: 

  • Exercise caution when taking action on emails, texts, and phone calls from unfamiliar sources. Often these messages impersonate legitimate entities or people we may know – reach out to the sender directly if you have doubts. 
  • Use a free safe browsing extension like McAfee® WebAdvisor that integrates website reputation ratings that can help steer you away from illegitimate news sites. For Chrome users, WebAdvisor will even color-code links in your social media newsfeeds, so you’ll know which ones are safe to click. 
  • Avoid websites with suspicious URLs or designs that look hastily put together. Check to make sure the site has a secure connection and starts with “https” rather than “http.” 
  • Some identity theft protection services include social media monitoring to help make sure your accounts aren’t being used by bad actors to spread fake news. 
  • Parental controls can keep tabs on kids’ screen timehelping limit their time on certain apps or sites that may be more vulnerable to proliferating misinformation. 
  • Consider using a comprehensive security suite to ensure your devices and online accounts are protected. 

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7 Conversations to Help Build Up Your Family’s Digital Literacy Skills

Digital Literacy

With the surge of misleading content online, helping your child learn to become an independent thinker is no small task.

While schools have been charged with developing students’ digital literacy skills, parents also have a role in consistently sparking deeper thinking when navigating digital environments.

The sharper a child’s digital literacy skills, the more quickly he or she can identify biased agendas and deceptive content and form thoughts, insights, and opinions independently of the digital crowd think.

Here are a few conversations to focus kids on building up digital literacy skills.

7 conversations to build digital literacy skills

  1. Grow visual literacy. The world expresses itself through media today, which makes visual literacy (the ability to interpret art and media content) another must-have skill for kids. According to recent reports, Snapchat has 10 billion video views a day, Facebook video 8 billion views a day, YouTube video 5 billion views. Instagram reports its users upload 25 million photos every day. This visual tsunami increases the chances your child will encounter deep fakes (AI-enhanced video), malicious memes (false information placed on photos) designed to manipulate public opinion. Discuss: Learn ways to spot deep fakes with your kids (stray hairs, no blinking, eye movement, etc.). Additional resource: Watch and discuss this video and read the post Can You Spot a Deepfake? from LifeHacker with your family.
  2. Search with care. Search engines scan the web and bring up relevant content. However, not all that content is credible. Understanding a search engine’s function is essential, especially when your child is researching a paper and evaluating other content. Search engines rank by keywords, not content accuracy. Ask: Is this content credible and supported by legitimate sources? Is it presented as humor or an opinion piece? Is the URL authentic and trustworthy? Additional Resource: Common Sense Media’s video Smart Online Search Tips.
  3. Protect, respect privacy. Kids, fueled by emotion and impulse, often move around online with little thought to personal privacy or the privacy of others. Discuss: Talk about the basics often: Where are the privacy gaps in our technology? Where are there privacy gaps in my behavior? How can we create strong passwords? Are my privacy settings current? Do I have personal details in public view, either on profile info or in my posts? The other side of privacy: Respect friends’ privacy by asking permission to post photos, keeping personal secrets, and never sharing personal details or circumstances of another person in the online space.
  4. Recognize and respect points of view. The web is a big place with an ocean filled with different points of view. Part of becoming digitally literate is learning how to listen to and respect the opinions of others. Exercising this skill is essential to building empathy, eliminating cyberbullying and online shaming, and becoming a positive voice in the online space. Additional resource: Discuss Dr. Michele Borba’s blog post, 9 Habits of Empathetic Children.
  5. Always attribute content. The internet is a big place that showcases a variety of exciting, valuable, original content. However, that content doesn’t display a visible price tag. Therefore, great content is often re-shared without giving credit to the author or creator. Discuss: Talk about the value of a person’s art, writing, photos, and research. Find examples of how to correctly cite sources and share them with your child. Follow up by checking your child’s social feeds to see that sources are being cited correctly. Coach them to add attribution when needed. Additional resource: Go through this free, 5-day course for families from CyberWise on Digital Citizenship.
  6. Always consider your digital footprint. A digital footprint is anywhere we’ve personally connected online. These small digital breadcrumbs — when added together and viewed as a whole — are what others see, and consequently, believe about us. The parts of our footprint include social profiles we create, comments we leave, tweets, photos, or any time others mention us online. Ask: Is this photo something that will add or subtract value from my digital footprint? Will this post, photo, or tweet affect my chances of getting into college or competing for a job? Will I be proud of this post five years from now? Additional Resource: Author Sue Scheff’s blog post Online Reputation Reboot for Teens.
  7. Stay current with new technology. It’s more so adults than kids that need to make a larger commitment to new technology. Part of digital literacy is keeping up with current technology and preparing for future technology. By making this learning investment, we can better understand the origin of new technologies such as AI and spinoff trends such as deep fakes. Educating ourselves on the nuances of tools such as vlogs, audio, video, AR, AI, 3D printing, and machine learning is essential to navigating the current and future landscape. Additional resources: Consider subscribing to magazines online to get you rolling:

Like other areas that require time and consistency to develop, your child’s digital literacy skills will take time to mature. Author Tim Elmore say on his Growing Leaders blog, when it comes to raising kids to thrive in the digital era, a parent’s role is clear, “We must clearly convey values and virtues like resilience, discipline, integrity, problem-solving skills, good communication, commitment, and responsibility. That’s the critical role we can play.”

So, have fun with these conversations always recognizing that your influence matters. Look for real-life digital literacy examples to talk about, and don’t forget to celebrate the wins you see your kids achieving online.

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Spotting Fake News: Teaching Kids to be Responsible Online Publishers

fake news

Editor’s note: This is part II in a series on Fake News. Read part I, here.

Kids today are not equipped to deal with the barrage of digital information coming at them every day. Add to that, the bulk of information that may be fake, misleading, or even malicious. So how do we help kids become more responsible for the content they share online?

We do it one conversation at a time.

When it comes to the mounting influence of fake news, it’s easy to point the finger at the media, special interest groups, politicians, and anyone else with an agenda and internet access. While many of these groups may add to the problem, each one of us plays a role in stopping it.

What’s our role?

We, the connected consumer, now play such a significant role in how content is created and disseminated, that a large part of the solution comes down to individual responsibility — yours and mine.

The shift begins with holding ourselves accountable for every piece of content we read, create, or share online. That shift gains momentum when we equip our kids to do the same.

Teach personal responsibility. Start the conversation around personal responsibility early with your kids and keep it going. Explain that every time we share fake news, a rumor, or poorly sourced material, we become one cog in the wheel of spreading untruths and even malicious fabrications. We become part of the problem. Challenge your child to become a trustworthy, discerning source of information as opposed to being viewed by others as an impulsive, unreliable source.

Discuss the big picture. Fake news or misleading content isn’t just annoying; it’s harmful in a lot of other ways. Misinformation undermines trust, causes division, can spark social unrest, and harm unity. More than that, fake news edges out helpful, factual, content designed to educate and inform.

Be aware of confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is gravitating toward ideas, people, and content that echoes our spiritual, social, political, or moral points of view. Confirmation bias tempts us to disregard information that opposes our ideology. While confirmation bias is part of our human nature, left unchecked, it can be an obstacle to learning factual information.

Chill, don’t spill. Fake news is designed to advance a personal agenda. This is especially true during times of social tension when tempers are running high. Don’t take the emotional bait. Exercise discernment. Before sharing, read legitimate news sources that offer balanced coverage, so the story you share or opinion you express is based on accurate information.

Be a free thinker. Our kids have grown up in a world where ‘like’ and ‘share’ counts somehow equate to credibility. Encourage kids to break away from the crowd and have the courage to be free, independent thinkers.

Challenge content by asking:

  • Do I understand all the points of view of this story?
  • What do I really think about this topic or idea?
  • Am I overly emotional and eager to share this?
  • Am I being manipulated by this content?
  • What if I’m wrong?

Question every source. Studies show that people assume that the higher something ranks in search results, the more factual or trustworthy the information is. Wrong. Algorithms retrieve top content based on keywords, not accuracy. So, dig deeper and verify sources.

5 ways to spot fake news

1. Look closely at the source. Fake news creators are good at what they do. While some content has detectable errors, others are sophisticated and strangely persuasive. So, take a closer look. Test credibility by asking:

  • Where is the information coming from? 
  • Is this piece satire?
  • Is the author of the article, bio, and website legitimate? 
  • Are studies, infographics, and quotes appropriately attributed?
  • Is the URL legitimate (cnn.comvs.
  • Are there red flags such as unknown author, all capital letters, misspellings, or grammar errors?

2. Be discerning with viral content. Often a story will go viral because it’s so unbelievable. So pause before you share. Google the story’s headline to see if the story appears in other reliable publications.

3. Pay attention to publish dates, context. Some viral news items may not be entirely false, just intentionally shared out of context. Fake news creators often pull headlines or stories from the past and present them as current news to fit the desired narrative.

4. Beware of click-bait headlines. A lot of fake news is carefully designed with user behavior in mind. A juicy headline leads to a false news story packed with even more fake links that take you to a product page or, worse, download malware onto your computer, putting your data and privacy at risk. These kinds of fake news scams capitalize on emotional stories such as the recent tragic death of basketball great Kobe Bryant.

5. Verify information. It takes extra effort, but plenty of sites exist that can help you verify a piece of information. Before sharing that a piece of content, check it out on sites like:


While fake news isn’t a new phenomenon, thanks to technology’s amplification power, it’s reached new levels of influence and deception. This social shift makes it imperative to get in front of this family conversation as soon as possible especially since we’re headed into an election year.

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Where’s the Truth Online? How to Build Your Family’s Digital Discernment

fake news

Note: This is Part I of a series on equipping your family fight back against fake news online. 

Fake news is chipping away at our trust in the government, the media, and in one another. And, because our kids spend much so much time in the online space, it’s more important than ever to help them understand how to separate truth from fiction.

How dangerous is the spread of misinformation? According to one study, 75% of people who see fake news believe it’s real. This inability to discern is at the core of how a false piece of information — be it a story, a photo, a social post, or an email — spreads like wildfire online.

Fake news erodes trust

A 2019 Pew Institute study reveled Americans rank fake news as a bigger problem in the U.S. over terrorism, illegal immigration, racism, and sexism and believe the spread of fake news is causing ‘significant harm’ to the nation and needs to be stopped.’

At the root of the issue is that too much news is coming at us from too many sources. True or not, millions of people are sharing that information, and they are often driven more by emotion and than fact.

According to Author and Digital Literacy Expert Diana Graber, one of a parent’s most important roles today is teaching kids to evaluate and be discerning with the content they encounter online.

“Make sure your kids know that they cannot believe everything they see or read online. Give them strategies to assess online information. Be sure your child’s school is teaching digital literacy,” says Graber.

Kids encounter and share fake news on social networks, chat apps, and videos. Says Graber, the role of video will rise as a fake news channel as AI technology advances.

“I think video manipulation, such as deepfake videos, is a very important area to keep an eye on for in the future. So much of the media that kids consume is visual, it will be important for them to learn visual literacy skills too,” says Graber.

The hidden costs of fake news

A December Facebook post warning people that men driving white vans were part of an organized human trafficking ring, quickly went viral on several social networks.

Eventually, law enforcement exposed the post as fake; people shrugged it off and moved on. But in its wake, much was lost that didn’t go viral. The fake post was shared countless times. With each share, someone compromised a small piece of trust.

The false post caused digital panic and cast uncertainty on our sense of security and community. The post cost us money. The false information took up the resources of several law enforcement agencies that chose to investigate. It cost us trust. Public warnings even made it to the evening news in some cities.

The spread of fake news impacts on our ability to make wise informed decisions. It chips away at our expectation of truth in the people and resources around us.

Fake news that goes viral is powerful. It can impact our opinions about important health issues. It can damage companies and the stock market, and destroy personal reputations.

In the same Pew study, we learned about another loss — connection. Nearly 54 percent of respondents said they avoid talking with another person because that person may bring made-up news into the conversation.

The biggest loss? When it’s hard to see the truth, we are all less well informed, which creates obstacles to personal and cultural progress.

Family talking points

Here are three digital literacy terms defined to help you launch the fake news discussion.

  1. Fake news: We like the definition offered by PolitiFact: “Fake news is made-up stuff, masterfully manipulated to look like credible journalistic reports that are easily spread online to large audiences willing to believe the fictions and spread the word.”Discuss: Sharing fake news can hurt the people in the story as well as the credibility of the person sharing it. No one wants to be known for sharing sketchy content, rumors, or half-truths.Do: Sit down with your kids. Scroll through their favorite social networks and read some posts or stories. Ask: What news stories spark your interest, and why? Who posted this information? Are the links in the article credible? Should I share this piece of content? Why or why not?
  2. Objectivity: Content or statements based on facts that are not influenced by personal beliefs or feelings.Discuss: News stories should be objective (opinion-free), while opinion pieces can be subjective. When information (or a person) is subjective, you can identify personal perspectives, feelings, and opinions. When information (or a person) is objective, it’s void of opinion and based on facts.Do: Teaching kids to recognize objective vs. subjective content can be fun. Pick up a local newspaper (or access online). Read the stories on the front page (they should contain only facts). Flip to the Op-Ed page and discuss the shift in tone and content.
  3. Discernment: A person’s ability to evaluate people, content, situations, and things well. The ability to discern is at the core of decision-making.Discuss: To separate truth from fiction online, we need to be critical thinkers who can discern truth. Critical thinking skills develop over time and differ depending on the age group.Do: Watch this video from Cyberwise on Fake News. Sit down together and Google a current news story. Compare how different news sites cover the same news story. Ask: How are the headlines different? Is there a tone or bias? Which story do you believe to be credible, and why? Which one would you feel confident sharing with others? 

The increase in fake news online has impacted us all. However, with the right tools, we can fight back and begin to restore trust. Next week, in Part II of this series, we’ll discuss our personal responsibility in the fake news cycle and specific ways to identify fake news.

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