October 2023     Edition 172
Empower Kids and Adults by Teaching Information Evaluation

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Social media (Facebook, X (Twitter), Instagram, etc.), internet searches (Google, Bing, etc.), and recently ChatGPT, Bard

and other large language models are fantastic tools and give anyone with an internet connection access to the world's knowledge base, both fact and fiction. But there's a lot of fiction! There are estimates of over 2 billion (yes billion) fake accounts throughout the social media world. How does one differentiate between fact and fiction and combat false and misleading information?

Most of the effort to address this has been to restrict access or censor certain information. 

However, it
s not possible to successfully accomplish that goal.  Throughout humankind, people have always exploited circumstances that can be misleading. There will always be those who navigate around the restrictions legally and illegally. There will always be posts and information that hundreds, thousands, maybe millions read before that information is discovered to be false, misleading, malicious, and taken away.
There are rumors, conspiracies, and fantasies that won't even qualify as "bad" and will remain for everyone to read.

Knowing that the above can

t fully do the job, and to avoid the consequences of misinformation, we need to teach people how to evaluate information critically.

So, rather than just limiting access or censoring information, we must educate individuals, specifically our children, on how to evaluate information. When people learn these skills, they are empowered to make informed and responsible choices in this complicated world.

Here are just a few areas to focus on:

Media Literacy:

People should learn how media outlets function, how information is presented, and how to identify potential biases. They should question sources of information, recognize reliable publications, and be wary of sensationalized or unverified content. Media literacy education empowers individuals to approach news and media with discernment, reducing the risk of falling prey to misinformation or propaganda.

Credibility and Consistency

of Speakers, Politicians, and Celebrities:

Just because someone of fame proclaims something doesn't make it accurate. Understand if it's an opinion vs. a statement of fact. Learn to understand when something presented intends to mislead, misrepresent, include alternative motives, or excite and energize others. Understanding the source of one's information is key to ascertaining the reliability of the material communicated. Are the statements consistent with what is out there and your knowledge? If not, then reconciliation of the information is important before it is assumed to be accurate. Is there other information that can corroborate or contradict the statement you are viewing?

Openness to new possibilities:

This is all about confirmation bias. We look and listen to evidence supporting what we want with little verification. We will shy away or try to disprove evidence supporting another position that is the truth. Are you listening to what you want to be accurate, or are you open to considering what might be true even though you wish it not to be? It's hard to hear the truth when we don't like it. We want to be correct.

Critical Thinking:

Ask questions concerning assumptions and listen to new perspectives.

Consider the following critical thinking approaches to pinpoint evidence and lead you to form a conclusion:

  • How do you
    it's true?

  • Learn to identify logical fallacies; there are errors in reasoning that can lead us to make flawed conclusions.

  • Are there generalizations formed from insufficient or tainted information?

  • Recognize bias, how it influences your thinking, and what sources you are learning from.


The Takeaway:
We need to encourage and teach ourselves and our children to evaluate information to produce sound conclusions. Hiding, censoring, and filtering information to "protect the innocent" cannot be fully achieved and is subject to bias. An educated population understanding how to interpret information is the best way forward



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