Difficult for teenagers to identify fake news online

Four girls sitting on a bench and looking at their mobile phones.
According to a new study published in Nordicom Review, many young people in Sweden find it difficult to identify fake or partial news online. The young people who considered themselves good at finding information online were the ones who did worst in the survey.
Press release
 | 14 February 2019

Swedish students self-report that they are quite good at finding and assessing information online. In a new study published in the scientific journal Nordicom Review, researchers have examined the ability of Swedish teenagers to determine the credibility of news online. Four hundred and eighty-three students aged 16–19 participated in the study. 

68 per cent of the teenagers who participated in the study rated their fact-checking ability as good or very good, and 79 per cent rated their searching ability as good or very good. Despite this, 88 per cent could not distinguish news from advertising in one of Sweden’s most read newspapers. Many had difficulty distinguishing factual text from biased text and identifying manipulated images. It is clear that digital source criticism can be difficult for anyone, but perhaps most so for those who are overconfident in their own abilities. 

"The fact that teenagers are not so good at determining the credibility of a source also underlines the importance of having access to reliable news", says Thomas Nygren, Senior Lecturer in Didactics at Uppsala University, who conducted the study. 

Attitude to reliable news is important

The students who considered it particularly important to have access to reliable news were the ones who best managed to distinguish between credible, biased and fake news. Respect for the knowledge and curiosity of others also seems to be important in order to be able to navigate among digital news wisely. 

Education plays an important role

Students in the aesthetic program were more successful than others in evaluating news, which indicates better critical thinking among these students. Education plays an important role in reducing the knowledge gap that exists. ​

"The results indicate that teaching source criticism is crucial for promoting critical and constructive assessment of news online among all young people, regardless of background and home conditions", Nygren says. 

The article Swedish teenagers’ difficulties and abilities to determine digital news credibility is written by Thomas Nygren and Mona Guath and is published in Nordicom Review. Download the article here.


Mia Jonsson Lindell

Topic :