Swedish school kids learn source criticism in fake news study

Karin Nilsson
Karin Nilsson - [email protected]
Swedish school kids learn source criticism in fake news study
File photo: Erik Nylander/TT

Source criticism is on the schedule for Swedish school children as a major scientific study looks into exactly what stories end up in the pupils' online news feeds.


The project Nyhetsvärderaren (the News Evaluator) targets pupils aged between 13 and 18, and is open for school classes across Sweden.
The aim is to get a better picture of what news stories end up in children's news feeds, explains Thomas Nygren, senior lecturer at the Department of Education at Uppsala University.
"We know that children today see more and more news online, on their phones and so on. But what they see, and how common fake news is for instance – that we don't know," Nygren told the Local.
Using an online tool, the pupils will assess the trustworthiness of news items by looking at factors such as where the story came from, what evidence is presented, and how the same story is packaged by other media outlets. 
"Our hope is that we'll get a much better picture of what children's news flows look like. Of what it is that's being spread, and how it's spread," Nygren said.
"We know from research today that it's very difficult for everyone to assess news. It's hard for adults as well as for young people. Even professors have problems critically evaluating news online today."
In the age of fake news, the researchers hope the study will give a better picture of how common fake stories are in the pupils' news flows. In the long run, this could help decision-makers in matters regarding children's media consumption.
"We know that fake news exists, but is it something that washes over the pupils, or do they see it once in a while? We don't know that," said Nygren.
"So this is really important knowledge for society: is it something we need to put major resources into? Or is it less common, meaning we need to put less resources into it?"
The researchers hope at least 3000-5000 students from across Sweden will take part in the project, which will be presented in full after Christmas 2017. Some intial findings will be presented on September 29th as part of the European Researchers' Night, an initiative launched by the European Commission. 


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