Kids Believe Literally Anything They Read Online:

Anyone can publish anything on the Internet. Despite that, children aren't taught how to evaluate the reliability of information they read there. As demonstrated by a recent study, this is true to a shocking extent, and there may be dire implications for the future of today's young people….Donald Leu, professor of education at the University of Connecticut, selected 53 of the best readers from seventh grade classes in low-income school districts in South Carolina and Connecticut.

The page in question was devoted to an animal called the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus. Yes, a tree octopus – an aquatic animal that allegedly lives in trees.87.5 percent of the seventh-grade subjects judged the Web page to be "reliable." More than half went so far as to call it "very reliable."

Victor Niederhoffer writes:

The octopus is very smart and could climb a tree if food were there, and it could get back to water in due time. One at the British Museum did that after opening its locked cage each night. That is one reason I am very abstemious in my eating of octopus.

Mark Schuetz adds:

It is a little disappointing that the article singles out the younger generation and web pages (Title: "Kids Believe Literally Anything They Read Online") instead of consumers in general and any form of media. As hinted in the subject, one wonders how many adults who worry about kids' "Critical Evaluation Skills" while browsing the internet would at the same time find a TV news segment about the tree octopus fascinating. Compare how sources are more often cited in Felix Salmon's blog than on CNBC– not to mention the comparison of number of factual inaccuracies (and subsequent public corrections) when comparing the two.

Similarly, compare reading one of the Economist blogs paired with browsing the much-hated Wikipedia ("Anyone can write anything! Horrible!") to gain a perspective about world events to watching Fox News.

Perhaps instead of shaking their heads in shame about 7th graders and targeting the internet, the article's author should consider how people of all ages watch segments on television or read their local paper, or really consume any type of media.





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4 Comments so far

  1. Jeff Watson on February 11, 2011 3:09 pm

    A pet store owner I once knew had an unusual problem. When he’d shut down for the evening, he would cover all of the fish tanks with styrofoam to keep the fish from jumping out of the tanks and to also limit evaporation. He noticed that the salt water tanks would be missing fish etc every morning and cound never figure out what happened. What had happened was that the octopus would crall over the top of the tank, moving the styrofoam, go into the other tank, eat whatever was in the other tank, and then go back to his own lair and sleep for the day fully satiated. Finally, a customer bought toe octopus, and the owner never bought another one, as he lost money big time on that octopus with the fancy diet.

  2. Paul Marino on February 11, 2011 7:55 pm

    The trailer for Part 1 of the new movie version of Atlas Shrugged has released. Interesting to see how this will update the classic book. It certainly looks like a high budget affair. The release date of April 15 coinciding the service payment period should be noted.


    Take care,

  3. vic on February 12, 2011 8:31 am

    one has seen this 15 minute piece, regrettably, and the acting and casting is so terrible that to me the whole thing is like a cartoon. The kind of movie that will get you to hate business rather than love it. The James Taggart is a kid looking like a 16 yr old internet geek. The Dagny is a sharp tongued maniac that needs a beating.The Wyott looks totally dissipated. and it gets worse. The only good thing is that Eddie Willers is a man of color. at least no one will dare to criticize that casting. The movie ends with the fire and John Galt appears just ephemerally.That's my view anyway. But of course I'll rent the film and have a party showing it. It's still in my mind the second greatest business novel ever written besides Monte Walsh. vic

  4. david on February 13, 2011 3:14 pm

    Jack, Jack, for your info, I asked my 13 year old daughter who attends the public school system here, if she has heard about this endangered critter. Turns out that she has and through their Language Arts teacher her class has embarked upon program to debunk junk like this. One up for the public school system. But if our oceans continue the path of pollutions cast upon it as is, no tell what will crawl to shore………….


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