The Internet is full of ads and organizations pretending to be something they are not. Stanford History Education Group researchers set out to determine the ability of young people — from middle-school to college — to judge the credibility of online information. In Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning, the results demonstrated that digital natives are easily duped.
“We sought to establish a reasonable bar, a level of performance we hoped was within reach of most middle school, high school, and college students. For example, we would hope that middle school students could distinguish an ad from a news story. By high school, we would hope that students would notice that a chart came from a biased source. We would hope college students, who spend hours each day online, would ask who’s behind a site that presents only one side of a contentious issue. But in every case and at every level, we were taken aback by students’ lack of preparation.”
“Overall, young people’s ability to reason about the information on the Internet can be summed up in one word: bleak.”
“Our “digital natives” may be able to flit between Facebook and Twitter while simultaneously uploading a selfie to Instagram and texting a friend. But when it comes to evaluating information, they are easily duped.”
Stanford’s not alone in their assessment. In our experience, the vast majority of students are steered by money myths, assume their over-confident peers know more than they do, and fall for scams—hook, line and sinker.