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Why Teen Girls Need to See Through Fake News

Helen Roe

“No way, I don’t believe everything I see in the media” they said.

“Of course it’s not all true. Most of the celebrities and influencers are photoshopped. Everyone knows that.”

Our young girls are smart and they are tech-savvy. Yet in the next breath they say they feel “less than”, “fat”, “not cool enough” and “boring”. Is all this fake news and sponsored fabricated content online to blame?

These comments came from the tween and young teen girls I surveyed for my book GirlTribes. Intellectually, our girls get how media works but emotionally it’s killing their confidence and sense of self. Of course it’s not illegal to voice an opinion online. Or to say things that are inaccurate. Propaganda has always existed but the Internet has magnified this age-old problem.

So why does it matter? We can ignore what we don’t want to see, right? It matters because we are setting ourselves up for trouble. One in four teens in Australia are suffering from a mental health illness. Females are twice as likely as males. And this foreboding statistic correlates with increased media consumption.

The average person sees between four and five hundred ads per day, between television, the Internet, outdoor advertising, and magazines. A recent study of tens of thousands of American high schoolers found that nearly 50% cannot determine fake news from real news. Kids and teens are focusing more on the content than the actual source and a small detail such as ‘sponsored content’ at the top of the post is missed.

Fake news is especially powerful when it is targeted to young people, often vulnerable and seeking to fit in and be accepted. Some social media platforms are addressing the issue like Facebook who offer tips to spot fake news. But no list can ever be complete or compensate for the responsibility we have as parents, educators and caring adults to ensure all young people have the skills to sift through their news feeds.

Here are five ways you can help teen girls see through fake news

  1. Let’s empower our youth to become their own fact finders. Encourage them to critique culture, not each other. Take the focus from self to society.
  2. Help girls to challenge media and question what is ‘normal’ whilst voicing their opinions and opening a two-way conversation. For example, models do not represent the majority of real life body shapes and sizes.
  3. Remind her that beauty and self-worth are not determined by external factors such as the latest number of Instagram likes or comments on her posts.
  4. Become an influencer in your own social circle. Only post or share stories that you know are true, from responsible sources. Avoid stories that are designed to trigger you into ‘hate-clicking.’
  5. Understand that with a lot of fake news comes clicks and profit. It’s a business model that uses dubious content to then make money from traffic and advertising. Steer clear.

Start with these steps, open the conversation and stay curious. And let’s empower our young girls to become their own media decoders.

You can learn more about Media Literacy and Teen Girls at a free workshop at the Canberra Writers Festival 26 August.

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Helen Roe

I hail from Ireland and now live in Australia with my celtic man, two gorgeous girls and Aussi dog. I help the most amazing women from all over the world make money doing what they love in my capacity as a business growth strategist and success coach for extraordinary women. More about the Author

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