Post-truth, alternative facts and fake news. Media has changed a lot since we began tweeting, but the last year has left media and its consumers in a crisis. A Pew Research study revealed that 62 percent of adults get their news from social media. We now live in a hyper-partisan world where sensational fake news often spreads faster than real news, according to a post-election BuzzFeed analysis. In this age of citizen journalism, media literacy is a confusing proposition.
Adults may assume that digital natives, who can text, post and Google at the same time, are able to sort through the information onslaught better than they can. In fact, Stanford University released a study in November that indicates students have a lot of trouble discerning the credibility of online information. For example, 82 percent of middle schoolers couldn’t distinguish between an ad labeled “sponsored content” and a real news story on a website. Even worse, this study was completed well before the reports of fake news surrounding the u.s. presidential election surfaced.
There is hope. A study by the Civic Engagement Research Group found that media literacy training does make people significantly less likely to believe a factually inaccurate claim, even if it aligned with their political point of view.