“Yes, Mom, I read that on the Internet!” – If so many people like it, there must be something to it…” – “Leon sent me this on WhatsApp – with a photo. That’s the proof!”
Do you know such discussions about news, where opinions differ in the family about whether they are true or not? On the Internet and in social networks, we encounter countless news items, reports and stories every day. They come from the TV news, the daily newspaper, people from the sports club or well-known people. Many are spread by rather unknown people on the Internet and through messengers. Mixed in with this are news sites and senders who deliberately want to manipulate with lies or half-truths. They deliberately spread disinformation, Rumors or hateful reports that are intended to unsettle us.
It is not only children and young people who find it difficult to distinguish trustworthy posts from fake news. This is because they are often “disguised” as serious news and appear very genuine. This can be problematic when it comes to political contributions with extremist or populist background and conspiracy theories be disseminated. Also, content that may be unsettling or frightening, especially to younger children, are problematic
Learn more about the difference between disinformation, false news and sartire in our article about it.
Disinformation circulates especially when many people are uncertain anyway and even experts or politicians have no answers to all questions – for example, during the Corona crisis and during the Ukraine war. Fake news often provides the answers you want and can help deal with uncertainty. But unfortunately they are not true! Questions like “Are the vaccines safe, too?” or “Where does the virus come from?” are answered incorrectly with inappropriate facts and figures. The problem with this is that the more often such articles are clicked on, the more often they are displayed and believed to be true. That’s why it’s important to know that even though many people read the news, it doesn’t have to be true.
But how can children, young people and adults recognize whether they can trust a message or an article? Most of the time it helps to listen to your own feeling and briefly consider whether the message can really be true. The following tips will help you and your child find out if it is indeed a hoax:
Where was the message read and who is actually behind it? Is the author known and an expert on the topic? Is it a reputable website?
Is the message found at different sources? How recent is the news? Where do the figures and data mentioned come from and in what context were they collected?
Do the content and language seem serious? It’s worth taking a look at spelling and terms used: Is emotional language and lots of capital letters used? Do you find catchwords like “lying press” or similar provocative terms? Could the article be meant satirically?
Do photos and videos match the content of the message? Are they up to date? Is there a caption and can you tell if they represent what is being described or are from another context?
A special form of fake news are so-called deep fake videos. Read more in our article!
Fake news spreads when many pass it on or tell others. Therefore, you should always consider first whether the message can really be true. Certain Internet sites (for children and adults) are considered reputable and usually disseminate only verified news. We also have some tips for you on where to check fake news and how to learn how to deal with it in a fun way:
Your child should know that not everything posted on the web or sent via WhatsApp is not necessarily true. If you check messages together, it can gradually learn to distinguish wrong from right.