The internet and social media can be great sources of information, but that doesn't mean all of it is accurate or trustworthy. In order to sort the good from the bad, parents have to help their teens build up their online media literacy.
Like adults, teens need the skills to be able to tell what information is credible and what isn’t, when media or images have been manipulated, and take the time to establish good habits like not sharing things online that aren’t true or can’t be verified.
It’s never easy to know right off the bat if the information you’re seeing is credible. But as in the offline world, there are a few basic steps you can take to help young people build up their sense of what is accurate and trustworthy, and what isn’t.
Let’s start with the basics: before engaging with or sharing a piece of content, help teens ask a few questions that could shed light on a piece of content: questions like the famous five W’s: Who? What? Where? When? And Why?
All of these tips are just a start. It will take time for teens to develop a good sense of what information on the internet can and can’t be trusted. Get in the habit of spending time online with them, and guide them to a place where they can use their judgment, on their own, to make good choices about what they read, create, engage with, or share online.
More Ways to Help
In addition to gathering more context by asking the Five W’s, there are a few more steps you can take to help teens and young people develop the independent skill set for learning how to be a good media consumer, online.
Keep the Conversation Going
Media literacy begins at home. It’s not a one and done. It will take time and effort on the part of parents to help teens and young people work through the world of online information. It helps if this work involves them, and feels more like a discussion. Talk with them about things like:
Here’s an exercise to perform with your teen in finding credible sources. This activity will help you practice verifying sources and information you find online.
This is something you can and should do together.
It’ll take time, but with a little practice and your support, your teen can learn the kind of skills needed to be critical about the information they see online, and help stop the spread of misinformation.