Accuracy in Media

A West Philadelphia after-school program is trying to teach teens what their parents and other adults struggle with—how to identify fake news.

The program at Mighty Writers West offers a weekly class called Fake News Finders that teaches kids from 10 to 14 years old the difference between real news, propaganda and entertainment, and how not to confuse them.

Their teacher, Christina Rissell, knows how much of a challenge this is in a social media-addicted world where kids are glued to their smartphones and tend to believe almost everything they read on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, etc.

“I realized that they had no idea about where to get sources, and why it’s important,” said Rissell.

Rissell said that she wanted her students, who will soon be writing research papers at school and at Mighty Writers, to avoid citing Wikipedia and YouTube, which can be unreliable sources of information.

Her curriculum focuses on current events and tries to be non-political. But that’s not always easy when her students watch the nightly news with their parents, who are also susceptible to being sucked in by fake news, especially when it fits with their political beliefs.

One student, Nasir Newman, 12, told Metro that he sees a lot of fake news and hears adults talking about it all the time.

“If the president is spreading fake news, he might start a war. That would be very bad, because when he lies, we die.”

Sounds like this kid has already bought the fake news Kool-Aid.

The fact that Rissell realizes that Wikipedia and YouTube, as well as other forms of social media, are unreliable sources of information is a good thing. The challenge will be convincing students in a heavily Democratic city like Philadelphia that fake news isn’t a right-wing phenomenon.

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