How to recognize fake news

Facebook, Twitter and others are breeding grounds for fake news. It is important for children and young people to learn to differentiate between fake news and credible sources. How parents can encourage their children to take a critical look at statements posted online.

The spread of fake news is not a new phenomenon. Influencing people and opinions with false information has always existed. However, digitization and social networks have intensified this practice.

Fake news is increasingly present on the Internet and it circulates very quickly. On online platforms, it is easy to provide one-sided information on controversial topics and leave no room for other points of view. To know if information is factual and correct, one must be able to verify the credibility of its content.

What is fake news?

Fake news is misinformation that is deliberately spread. At first glance, fake news looks like regular news or articles. However, the objective of the authors is not to fulfill a duty of information. Through fake news, these people attempt to manipulate public opinion and trigger emotions such as fear and insecurity. 

Groups with extreme views on controversial, xenophobic or worldview issues use the Internet to stir up tensions, spread one-sided opinions and manipulate facts (alternative facts). Political and scientific circles are also often the target of fake news.

In order for children and young people to be able to recognize fake news, they must develop critical thinking and learn to distinguish fact from opinion.

Here’s how to recognize fake news

Spotting fake news isn’t always easy. Here are some help elements to recognize reliable sources:

  • Source Verification : Where Does the Information Come From? Who wrote the article and published the content? Is the information neutral or is a person trying to spread their own message? In what format (article, social networks, YouTube, messaging services) was this message published?
  • Fact check : Is this information current? Is this subject also treated by other known and serious media? What is there to read about it on these other media? 
  • Target group verification : Who is the message for? If an article is published on the Internet, how many advertisements are visible on the page? Does the title and layout look strange? Are there a lot of spelling mistakes or exclamation points?
  • URL verification : What does the URL look like (www.)? Fake news often appears on pages that look a lot like a serious site. The web address can also look like the original page, for example instead of

There are methods and technical tools to unmask fake news, for example the platform against misinformation “”, the 20-minute “Fake off” section or the “Decodex” of the newspaper Le Monde. 

War in Ukraine on TikTok

The war in Ukraine is also the scene of many fake news that circulate alongside serious information. It is particularly difficult to tell the difference between facts and false information, because information about the war spreads on social networks at a speed far greater than that at which the traditional media can verify it. War reporting on the TikTok video portal is also a new phenomenon. This platform has an above average number of young users. In many cases, the original source of a video is no longer visible on TikTok. Moreover, alongside the authentic videos from Ukraine, there are also circulating videos of montages made from sound and visual recordings of other conflicts or from video games.

Social networks are multipliers of fake news

Fake news is mainly spread via social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube or messaging services such as Telegram or WhatsApp. They especially receive great attention when they arouse strong emotions. False information that sows doubt, ridicules a thesis or excludes minorities is often liked, shared and commented on, and thus spreads in a very short time. 

This is all the more problematic as social networks are increasingly replacing traditional media such as newspapers, radio, television or government news sites. In Switzerland, 84% of young people already regularly use social networks as sources of information (JAMES 2020 study, ZHAW). In order for children and young people to be able to recognize fake news, they must develop critical thinking and learn to distinguish fact from opinion.

Advice for parents

  • Explain to your child that not everything he sees or hears on the Internet is true. Show them why it’s important to use different channels and why diversity of opinion matters on these important topics.
  • Be a role model yourself: be vigilant yourself and take a critical look at online content. Express your thoughts and share.
  • Talk to your child about fake news, the intentions behind it, and how it spreads. Ask him what he thinks about it. 
  • Research with your child current examples of fake news on the Internet.
  • Check information and news together, for example by reviewing reported facts and sources. You will find more information on this subject on the Youth and Media website.
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