This book can help kids spot fake news

Though judging by what we see online, many adults could use it too.

Fake news is probably a more widespread pandemic than COVID was. Granted, it doesn’t threaten to send you to the ER department, but that’s not to say it’s not causing a good deal of damage.

With most people getting their news from their social platform newsfeed, it’s no surprise that even the weirdest stories sometime get taken for truth.

The Elon Musk phenomenon hasn’t helped. There are very few checks and balances in whatever gets posted on Twitter (I don’t care what that over-privileged nincompoop has decided to call it).

Neither has the charming habit that some ‘journalists’ have taken up in recent years. I can’t believe that picking someone’s Facebook status has become the only source for a dismaying number of ‘news’ stories.

Truth is, unless you check in with a professional media house for your news updates, the likelihood is that will be taken in at some point. And even some big media houses have been known to fall prey to fake news, so…. Nothing’s foolproof really.

Initiatives like The Guardian’s and our very own Times of Malta fact checking services help, of course. But what about the youngest generation, digital natives who are most likely to get their information exclusively from what their Google newsfeed throws at them?

Enter this wonderful publication – Fake Ta’ Veru. The book was originally written by Nereida Carrillo and Alberto Montt, but it is now translated into Maltese by David Aloisio. It is literally intended to help young readers learn how to look out for fake news and the way it’s presented is ingenious.

I think it has a sporting chance of actually attracting the attention of its target audience thanks to a very colorful design and a ‘fragmented’ approach to the content.

There are no huge chunks of text. Instead, plenty of images, illustrations, info boxes, challenges…. This is a layout that’s perfect for someone used to navigating the digital world as it replicates the format of most sites that target young people. Each page is packed with acronyms, bold text, questions and so forth.

I did check in with a number of friends’ kiddos and was initially met with sceptism, but I suspect that’s mostly because they thought it was impossible for anything remotely ‘cool’ to emanate from a friend of their parents (ah, the fools).

They all proceeded to spend time poring over it and ignoring us, though. And two of them refused to relinquish it because they wanted to show it off at school. So I’m guessing the experiment was successful.

Cut a long story short, 10 on 10. If you’re worried about your kids’ online exposure to conspiracy theorists then this can help.

PS: of course I let them keep it, did you take me for a monster?

The author thanks Merlin Publishers for the review copy.

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