By Tylar Bloch

When you’re reading the news, it’s easy to take the facts at face value. This is especially true when news comes in the form of social media posts and videos, where information can be presented enticingly and without much of the context needed to fully capture a story.

The spread of news content throughout social media is happening, and our kids are picking up on it. As one survey showed, more than half of teens are accessing most of their news on these platforms.

It’s therefore our job to ensure that young people have the tools they need to analyze news content—not just consume it. Doing so can help them see different perspectives, evaluate the available evidence, and ultimately identify misinformation.

To help kids become more media savvy, families and educators should introduce kids to some of the most important questions to ask when consuming information. In particular, kids should always consider the Who and Why of a news piece. For example, questions such as Who is the author, Who is the audience, and Why did they write this can teach kids to think critically about the context and purpose of information.

Who

Knowing the author and the interested parties is one of the most important ways to evaluate the validity of a piece of content. Fortunately, there are tools available online to help with this. If a news story is published by an organization, kids can use this reliability chart to understand how strong the organization’s reporting practices are. Similarly, kids can use this bias chart to figure out the degree of political bias that may be present.

Additionally, if information is not tied to a recognized organization, kids should understand that these sources may be less credible. After all, an organization’s reputation is as important as the content it produces.

Why

Questions about content’s purpose are also critical to understanding the strength of a message. Notably, kids should ask whether the information they come across is presented to (1) Persuade, (2) Inform, or (3) Entertain them.

To fully apply the PIE framework, kids should consider the medium of a message. For example, while TikTok may primarily be a platform designed to entertain, traditional news publications like the New York Times generally serve the purpose of informing the public.

Asking Who and Why is one of the most important first steps kids can take to understand the content they come across. And with the rise of media reliability tooling, they can more easily spot misinformation. For additional tips, families can consult Common Sense Media’s guidelines on News and Media Literacy for kids in Grades 6 – 12.

Conversation Starters

  1. What are some of the benefits of knowing current events? Is it ever possible to know too much about the news?
  2. What platform do you get most of your news from?
  3. When was the last time you noticed a misleading headline?
  4. Why might authors wish to persuade readers of a particular point of view?
  5. Why might data play such an important role in conveying a news story?

Resources


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