Digital Literacy

Report: Digital Natives 'Easily Duped' by Information Online

Many students are having a hard time judging the credibility of online news, according to a new study from Stanford University. Researchers at the Stanford Graduate School of Education assessed middle, high school and college students on the their civic online reasoning skills, or “the ability to judge the credibility of information that floods young people’s smartphones, tablets and computers.”

The Stanford History Education Group recently released a report that analyzes 7,804 responses collected from students across 12 states and varying economic lines, including well-resourced, under-resourced and inner-city schools. To test news literacy, the researchers administered 56 tasks that involved open web searches. They found that when it comes to evaluating information that flows on social media channels like Facebook and Twitter, students “are easily duped” and have trouble discerning advertisements from news articles.

Native advertising, for example, “proved vexing for the majority of students,” according to the report. For one task, 203 middle school students were asked to evaluate the homepage of Slate magazine’s website. More than 80 percent of students believed that an advertisement with the words “sponsored content” was a news story. Several even responded that it was sponsored content, yet identified it as a credible news story.

Many people assume that today’s students – growing up as “digital natives” – are intuitively perceptive online. The Stanford researchers found the opposite to be true and urge teachers to create curricula focused on developing students’ civil reasoning skills. They plan to produce “a series of high-quality web videos to showcase the depth of the problem” that will “demonstrate the link between digital literacy and citizenship,” according to the report.

The report, “Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning,” can be found here.

About the Author

Sri Ravipati is Web producer for THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at sravipati@1105media.com.

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