how to educate adults on fake news
Point of View

On fake news and how you can “possibly” educate adults to stop sharing them

Do you ever miss the old social media world where the only things you see were games, random status updates, and yellow-filtered selfies? It was all fun and entertaining until it becomes a platform for disseminating fake news. Baseless, sensationalized news now spread like wildfire, and for some reason, people keep believing and sharing them on their feed, group chats, and even with their families. 

And I know you know who is most likely to share them – it’s the adults (or boomers, if you want to call it that way).

Misinformation amongst adults

In a recent study conducted by researchers in cognitive psychology and cognitive neuroscience at Harvard, people age over 65 years old are seven times more likely to share false articles vs. younger generations. Here are the probable reasons why adults share fake news more often based on the research:

  • Digital media illiteracy – Boomers tend to be less skeptical when it comes to the trustworthiness of news they read on the internet.

  • Trusting their network more than the sources – When an adult’s friends share news on social media, regardless if it’s fake or not, they immediately believe it’s factual simply because it is shared by someone in their network.

  • Their idea of truth – Adults are less likely to share factual news when it goes against their belief. Hence, they’re sharing only the ones that they BELIEVE is true because they agree with it, no matter how baseless it is. 

While digital media literacy is a challenge amongst social media users in general, I believe the younger ones have a bigger role in educating adults who are commonly the victims of misinformation. We can start it at home. We can slowly but surely teach older people, like our parents, to identify reliable sources. I also asked a few friends in the community to share their thoughts on this matter.

how to educate adults on fake news
In the Philippines, at least 300 websites were found spreading fake news on Facebook, according to Rappler, a social news network committed to investigative reporting. Photo by Obi Onyeador from Unsplash.

Make them realize their source is unreliable

Back then, my parents used to be victims of fake news but I kept telling them it’s not true. Whenever they tell me something, I always ask “what’s your source?” and when they answer, my next question would be “is that a legitimate news source?” Chances are, they will think twice about where they get the fake news from. I always tell them what news sources they should follow and believe or wait for these legitimate media outlets to report the news before it’s considered proven. Eventually, my parents stopped believing sensationalized pages and that’s one less problem!

Also, when you see some people sharing false news, don’t be afraid to message or comment on the post that it is fake. Of course, you don’t need to be disrespectful to your parents or aunts and uncles. If they take your gesture as offensive, don’t fret. You are doing your part, so continue with it.  

Educate consistently

Here’s a thought from Mary of Coffee Gurl:

Ever since my mom started using Facebook, she always believes in baseless articles. We try our hardest to educate her and thankfully it has been helpful. What we did was we explained to her that fake news is a thing and that it’s so easy for anyone to create false statements online. We help her understand and educate that if she sees news from an unverified and unofficial page, don’t believe it – even if it’s shared by her close friends. Consistency leads to habits, and these form the actions that our parents or relatives take every day. 

AJ from AJ’s Notes shares: 

I think there’s no one easy way to properly educate boomers about fake news especially here in the Philippines. However, one thing that could help is by talking to them alone. Educating someone who’s older, boomers, may be seen as somewhat disrespectful. They may also feel belittled or embarrassed. So, it would be best to talk to them in private about topics like these, as a courtesy since they are from an older generation.

Share factual news with them

Here’s what Enzo who blogs at Modern Time Minimalist says:

When you tell them that what they have shared is not true, it’s an opportune time to share them factual news. All the time. Fake news is commonly spread through social media but one has to eradicate them by sharing news from reliable sources through your group chats or tagging them in it. It also helps to remind them to befriend and connect only with people they personally know. Moreover, introduce them to established news and media sources so they would know which ones are fake right off the bat. 

Be patient and understanding

A few words from JM who blogs at Writings by JM:

Taylor Swift’s lyrics in her new song, Cardigan, probably sums up the whole thing: “When you are young, they assume you know nothing.” Boomers can sometimes be really hard to talk to and educate. Some of them don’t like to admit that they’re wrong, or that they have been tricked by fake news. One thing you can do is to endure and be more understanding. Be patient and don’t lose hope because they will eventually get your point on why you keep convincing them to stop spreading fake news. 

Educating adults on fake news is not an easy feat. You may or may not win it, but at least you take baby steps to lessen the number of misinformation. It works better if people are actually willing to be educated and learn from it, but if they are blinded by plain idolatry, that, my friend, is a different case to write about.

Do you have other recommendations? Let me know in the comments!

34 Comments

  • Vinn

    Fake news are spreading like wildfire is a matter of great concern amidst the pandemic and other issues surrounding the world. Yes I noticed boomers do share it a lot and as well as the younger generations. This is confusing the society and it is one of the reasons why some areas are still struggling with pandemic. We should try our best to educate someone nicely and with our best intentions on how to process the news that land on their social media.

  • lifestyleseason

    Great post! Thank you for sharing! This is so useful and I totally agree with this! There is a lot of fake news out there and we have to consider whether it is from a reliable source and it is believable.

    • Ellie Mai

      I agree with this so much, it’s so hard to know what is a reliable source sometimes. I’ve been telling a lot of my family in the older generation about the dangers of fake news and some reliable sources.

  • Molly @ Transatlantic Notes

    It is so difficult to navigate all the information being shared and separate out what is misinformation or outright lies (often shared from questionable/dangerous groups who use it to spread hate, etc). Also another problem is that there are now vast amounts of people who call actual accurate and factual reporting ‘fake news’ and use it to peddle conspiracy theories or hate.

  • The Cheetah Buzz

    This reminds of my dad in his WhatsApp chats. Every time he sees an interesting “fact” shared with him from one of his friends or churchmates, he always tries to convince us that it is true. And in turn we always have to educate him with stats to debunk some of the things he sees on there. Lol it can get annoying sometimes – Josie xxx

  • Jirah Merizz

    Fake news is really disturbing and can cause a lot of panic especially to the elders. Thank you so much for sharing this and for giving us the chance to contribute! x

  • glowsteady

    This is something I talk about with my grandparents a lot. Thankfully neither of them have social media but constantly talk about those articles that pop up on the side of other web pages or a headline they’ve read without fully reading the story or knowing the sources. Still trying to make sure they don’t send all of their bank details to the king of make believe land who wants to give them a billion dollars though so…one step at a time 😂

    Sophie

  • Mind and Body Intertwined

    This is such an important subject to talk about! I for instance once saw an article with the title ‘Selfies turn you into psychopaths’. As a psychologist myself, I couldn’t believe this so I checked out the original scientific article, which stated that apparently, there was a significant correlation between psychopaths and selfies. Now of course this is not at all the same conclusion. And this happens with so many things, which is for instance also the cause of stigma’s surrounding several mental health issues and illnesses.

    Now I know there are more ways fake news harms society, but this is my most apparent personal experience with it and it made me furious!

  • Nyxinked

    I find myself arguing with my parents about this stuff all the time. They are adamant that I’m the one getting the fake news and they believe everything they read in the paper/see on the news channels in the evening.

    • The Queensights

      It seems most people have problems like this with the parents – I do, too. But I always tell them the truth even if it’s against their idea of truth. I don’t want them to be a part of the statistics of people who are fooled by fake news.

  • alicerunsaway

    I am lucky that my mum listens to me and my nan asks me questions about things she has heard from the media. My extended family are the fake news facebook warriors and it is a nightmare!! Great post.

    Alice

  • Anonymous

    The amount of fake news I see is always so surprising, I never understand where it comes from! The most common thing I see is chain mail, I absolutely hate it. It definitely takes a lot of patience to coach my mum away from dodgy messages and news articles. And I totally agree on your point on education, so important! Lovely post.

    Anika | chaptersofmay.com

  • Roni

    This is SUCH an important post. Misinformation and fake news can have such dangerous effects on society and it gets to the point where nobody knows what the truth actually is! The first stage is to identify what’s fake, and then prevent it from spreading x

    Roni | myelevatedexistence.com

  • clairelomax2018

    Fake news really is the worst thing about social media. It literally spreads like wild fire. It always saddens me when people I always saw as intellectual people with common sense sharing absolute nonsense.

    It is one reason I don’t bother with Facebook anymore.

    Thank you for sharing x

  • Merry

    Can’t agree more! There are tons of fake news every day and my mom keep getting them, so I said to not believe everything without legit source. I absolutely hate it! It’s really important to educate adults about this! Thanks for the post, so informative 🙂

  • Simone Says GO!

    Great discussion given all the political and social crises we’re dealing with around the globe at the moment. We really do need to find the patience (l!!) and double-down on our efforts educate the parents/other older ones in our families who insist on blindly accepting these articles & hitting the Forward button on Whatsapp and FB!

  • Abundance of Flavor

    One of my biggest frustrations lately is the disingenuous news my parents and grandparents immerse themselves in. It seems impossible to pull them out of it, but myself and my siblings are constantly trying to keep them accountable and let them know when something they share is false or inaccurate, and explain how they should be verify news they read, especially before sharing to others. Thanks for your tips!

  • Cue Adulthood

    Fake news is so easily to spread that it’s so hard to decipher what’s true and fake anymore. Your post was super helpful! And it really emphasized that we have to double check and re-educate others, especially the elders.

  • Paul Wilke

    Good, thought-provoking article. It’s easier correcting fake news with family. You can explain in person how their opinion may not be based on facts and show them where to get higher quality info. Dealing with misinformation on social media is something else entirely, and something I’ve really struggled mightily to deal with. Do you call it out and correct? Or just scroll down and ignore? In my experience, correcting someone, no matter how politely, usually backfires. My facts bounce off them like ping pong balls and I get accused of being a liberal know-it-all. But by just ignoring it, do I become complicit through my apathy? I don’t know. We live in a weird time when facts are whatever we want them to be, opinions are sacred, and it’s taboo to challenge someone publicly about the foundation of a belief or opinion.

    • The Queensights

      Thank you for your thoughts. I agree it’s hard to tell someone that the news they believe in is actually false or fake. Sometimes, these people are so close-minded that they don’t accept what’s correct because of their idea of “truth”.

  • A Cup of Wonderland

    This is such an interesting and thoughtful post. I always think it’s ironic how the older generation can easily say that the younger need to learn and understand social media better when the same can be said to them. The amount of fake news and the way misinformation is spread is crazy, I see it in my local facebook group where people share fake news constantly and then get defensive when people call them out on it. I’m fortunate that I can talk to my parents and that I’m lucky that they do tend to question the news and not believe everything they see online. Brilliant post!

  • Jaya Avendel

    My dad works in the journalism department of our local university and it is unbelievable how much fake news there is floating around on fake sites, just seething of clickbait. It is true older people are more likely to fall for loaded titles and it can be hard to talk about fake news with people who all insist their community/friends know better then to share rubbish.

    That said, I have learned even big news corporations and ‘legitimate’ sources can also stretch or distort the truth so all news is to be taken with a grain of salt, especially if it happens to be coverage of something big!

  • Baby Boomer Super Saver

    Not all boomers believe fake news. I’ve found many young people do, too. It really depends more on the person and what they have been exposed to over their lifetime that has shaped their values and critical thinking ability. It’s important to find ways to talk about these issues in a way that doesn’t alienate others. People do not want to feel as if they are being attacked for their beliefs. I’ve been very frustrated by relatives who share fake news on social media. I agree it is better to talk one-on-one. Another option is to flag something on social medial as fake news.

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