Propensity to share fake news is directly related to age. courtesy Tulsa World

Consumption of fake news on social media related to age of user

Digital literacy in the internet age is essential to discerning the accuracy of online media.

The distribution of fake news is a massive and relatively new issue due to the interconnected nature of our modern society. Through the use of social media and online tools such as Facebook, people have the ability to both spread verifiably false information and more readily accept fake news. While this is a problem facing a large majority of internet users, the main people responsible are those over the age of 65.

A recent study posted in the journal Scientific Advances followed the posting habits of 2,711 people on Facebook during the 2016 election. It was found that when accounting for demographic factors as well as posting habits, senior citizens over 65 were seven times more likely to share fake news than their 18 to 29 year-old counterparts. They were twice as likely as people aged 45 to 64 and more than three times as likely as those aged 30 to 44.

It was also found that this relationship of age and the spreading of fake news does not heavily depend on the users’ political party or belief system. Some may argue that younger people are less likely to share fake news due to not using social media as a way to showcase political opinion. This could mean that they either care less about politics or their political beliefs are not as set in stone as their elders.

However, I would argue that the real reason behind senior citizens and fake news is that they lack the same digital literacy as their younger peers. The growth of the internet has created a new source of research for students across the globe irrespective of their language or geography.

Due to the internet’s rise as a primary jumping-off point for scholarly information for many new students, these young adults are consistently taught in their classes that not all sources on the internet are useful or factually accurate. Some sources are not useful for academic work and lack credibility due to a series of flaws. In addition to these general principles taught in most English and history classes, a new type of concept has also been growing in schools across the United States: digital literacy.

The New York Department of Education describes digital literacy as “having the knowledge and ability to use a wide range of technology tools for varied purposes.” In addition, digitally literate people are those who “can use technology strategically to find and evaluate information, connect and collaborate with others, produce and share original content and use the internet and technology tools to achieve many academic, professional and personal goals.” Through this form of education, adolescents and young adults are hopefully better equipped to handle stories that are fake or news headlines that are purposefully or accidentally misleading.

However, those in older age demographics, especially senior citizens, lack these capabilities. For some, it has been around 40-50 years since they were in school or had any formal education. They are therefore less equipped to spot and more likely to post fake information. In an attempt to fix this problem, adult education classes are currently available in limited availability to teach these necessary skills. Through the advancement and further proliferation of such classes, we can help reduce the amount of fake news spread on the internet.

Fake news is a big problem on the internet due to its consumption replacing that from legitimate news outlets. To have rational and truthful discourse on the internet, we must all be prepared to seek the truth and not have our personal beliefs get us to believe things that are not true.

Post Author: Nathan Hinkle