mediaX Thought Leader Shows High School Students are Unprepared to Judge Credibility of Information on the Internet

November 18, 2019

Despite mounting attention to the threat of “fake news” on the internet and efforts nationwide to improve digital media literacy, high school students still have difficulty discerning fact from fiction online, according to new research from scholars at Stanford Graduate School of Education.

The report, released today by the Stanford History Education Group (SHEG), provides sobering evidence that prospective young voters lack the skills to judge the reliability of information online, the researchers said.

“If the results can be summarized in a single word, I would say they’re troubling,” said Professor Sam Wineburg, founder of SHEG, who co-authored the report with SHEG director Joel Breakstone, PhD ’13, and director of assessment Mark Smith, PhD ’14. “The 2020 presidential election is just a year away, and many current high school students will be first-time voters. Our findings show that they are unprepared to assess the information they encounter.”

The researchers concluded that current approaches to digital literacy instruction are inadequate, particularly a “checklist” method that asks students to consider certain criteria as they look at an individual website. This approach can mislead students, the researchers said, by focusing their attention on a single site instead of teaching them how to consult the broader web to establish a site’s trustworthiness.

Read the entire Stanford News story by Carrie Spector HERE