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The Real Impact of Fake News

Fake news is a term that has been used increasingly in recent months, and was especially highlighted throughout the most recent Presidential campaign. Fake news is the term for news stories that are publicly advertised as true but are actually used for purposes such as being comical, attracting attention to a certain company or, in some cases, for propaganda to make people believe false information. Stories can vary in public effect and could possibly cause panic, depending on the severity of the fake information.

Some of the main sources of fake news can be found on social media sites. With the increasing usage of these sites, these stories can be easily viewed and shared between multiple people at once. This becomes an increasing problem amongst younger readers as they don't necessarily know any better than to believe what they see online. Many stories can be quite easily distinguished as fake, whilst others can seem just like any other real news story. Which leads us to question how do young people know when they are reading fake news? How can we protect young people from fake news?

To find out the impact of fake news on young people we created our own fake news story and monitored students’ responses from across the school once they found out it was in fact, fake news. Out of the 428 responses that we received, exactly half of them told us that they believed the story, whilst 116 people knew it was fake. 86 people gave their opinion on fake news and 12 people didn't provide us with any of their thoughts or opinions.

Some of the students’ responses in Years 7 to 11 included:

“I didn’t believe it was real because there were not many facts to back up the story. However, fake news is very common now so many people could have believed it was true.”

“I half believed it because it came from a reliable source even though there was some unbelievable content.”

“After being told that it was fake, it made me think about all the fake news that is out there and what the media feels they need to lie about.”

“Fake news doesn’t surprise or bother me as everything is fake nowadays.”

“Fake news can influence the beliefs and attitudes of the public concerning current events and popular opinions.”

It is important that people are aware of fake news stories and how to prevent themselves from believing the fabricated information that they are fed. Here are five ways to spot if a supposedly true news story is actually fake:

Check any facts or figures within the story- Fake news stories often exaggerate facts and figures to give the story a bigger impact on the audience. This could often give the story a less believable feel as the information might not fit well with the story.

Look for the same story being reported through other news outlets- If a news story is significant, it is often reported through many different news outlets. Checking other sources can be an effective way of confirming whether a story is fake or genuine.

Check how detailed the story is - This method can confirm suspicions of a fake story but can sometimes be of little help if this step is used first. A vague story could be a sign of it being fake due to lack of information but it may also mean that the story is real but still emerging, meaning many details are left unknown.

Assess the reliability of the source- Ask yourself a few questions about the source. Have previous reports been true? Is it a widely known source? Has it been identified as fake by others?

Finally, use your common sense- If the story seems too unrealistic, there is a good chance that it is fake. Finding flaws in the story and using your own common sense can help you work out if a story is fake.

Fake news is a growing concern and, as we have found out, can be extremely convincing for many people. As this issue, and all of its additional dangers, increases, we believe by following the steps above should help with recognising when they are reading fake news and ultimately the reduction in the number of people who believe those types of news stories.

Zainab, reporting for the Maiden Erlegh BBC Schools Report.


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Maiden Erlegh School