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'You realize things aren't always as they seem' students learn to spot misinformation on social media

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Posted at 11:58 AM, Jan 27, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-27 20:01:33-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — The flood of misinformation on social media makes it necessary for everyone to know where their news comes from.

Schools across the country are now teaching students about news literacy.

At West End Middle School, students use cameras, lights and a formal anchor desk to broadcast the morning's announcements.

They put on a complete newscast — while putting aside their middle school anxieties.

"Confidence. You have to have a lot of confidence looking at the screen — not caring what other people think," said eighth grader Adelaide Smith.

Seventh grader Leah Rodgers added, "Adelaide, she was there by my side helping me, which I really like. She's kind of like a mother for me. She helps me out and she's so caring."

"We have like a family here," Adelaide continued.

Adelaide and Leah are part of a team that has done this through the pandemic.

"I want the news to just be informative because that's what we do. We do this, so the student body knows what's going on," Adelaide said.

Multi-media teacher Bruno Clark wants students to learn more than just how to put on a newscast — but also how to consume news.

"Accuracy. Get things right. Make sure it's reliable. Make sure it's valid," Clark said.

"All my students say, 'hey, we see what's going on out here in the real world. We see that some adults are making bad choices in social media. We don't want to be the ones to do that,'" Clark said.

The flood of misinformation online is why librarians across the country, including at West End Middle, are teaching a course in news literacy.

"Students now get their information from TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, all these places that I don't always use for news, but that's where they are," said Librarian Stephanie Kraft, who teaches the class at West End.

The nonpartisan, nonprofit News Literacy Project provides the materials which help students determine what is an opinion, what is an advertisement and urges them to be careful what they like and share.

Eighth graders Lyla Sinback, Rachel Henson and Hudson Mills are taking the class.

"There's definitely a lot of misinformation, especially on social media," Rachel said.

The class encourages them to think before they share something on social media — don't put your name on something that is made up.

"You can act like anything is fact, and by doing that you can harm others because they think what you said is actually real," Lyla said.

"You realize things aren't always what they seem, and that can be really helpful in making informed decisions," Hudson said.

The students working on the announcements are learning all kinds of real-world skills.

"You have to be on time. To be early is to be on time. To be on time is to be late, and to be late is unacceptable," Leah said.

Among their lessons, be sure to verify information. And when you share something, be sure it is something people can trust.

"I don't want to put on something false. I wouldn't want to hear false news and spread this, and it becomes a huge thing that's not true," Adelaide said.