Feb

11

 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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