The internet is a beautiful escape, the world's most wide-reaching communication device, the biggest business ever conceived, and a leveler of who has the tools to create art. But it's also a perfectly-honed propaganda machine that bounces back our biases so often it's become a hazard to the future. According to a year-long study from Stanford researchersAccording to a year-long study from Stanford researchers, the inability of young students to tell "fake news" from real news is alternately "dismaying," "bleak," and a "threat to democracy.", the inability of young students to tell "fake news" from real news is alternately "dismaying," "bleak," and a "threat to democracy."
If the children are the future, the future looks bleak.
Stanford came to these conclusions after having more than 7,800 middle school, high school, and college-age students evaluate articles, tweets, and comments. The results were depressing. Eighty percent of middle schoolers couldn't tell "sponsored content" from articles, over 80 percent of high schoolers accepted the validity of photographs without attempting to verify their authenticity, and high schoolers couldn't tell fake from real news on Facebook. It's all the more disheartening because these are members of the first generation that are, in demographic terms, "digital natives."
It's worth pointing out the game is totally rigged against all of us.
"There's just so much information, it's harder and harder to accurately and effectively process it," said Yalda Uhls, a child psychology researcher and author of _Media Moms and Digital Dads: A Fact not Fear Approach to Parenting in the Digital Age._Rather, our brains use heuristics, those "rules of thumb" we trot out when a decision is seemingly simple or must made quickly. But those shortcuts don't always lead to the best results. "That's why if you're on one end of the political spectrum and a headline confirms what you already believe, your brain takes the shortcut," said Uhls
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