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How to Fact-Check the Internet

Not everything you read online is accurate. This guide will help you separate fact from fiction.

There is a long string of false or misleading claims that people post and share online. Deciding what to believe can be a challenge. Here are some tips for figuring it out.

TIP: Understand What Makes You Want to Share Shocking Content

A friend shares a post that really grabs your attention. You think, “This is so amazing!” Your emotions, or feelings, block out the part of your brain that might say, “Wait, is this true?” So you quickly share the post with your followers.
When your followers see the post, they have the same emotional reaction that you did. So they share it with their followers. And the cycle goes on and on.

THE FIX

Make sure you aren’t reacting only on emotion. Before you share something, wait 30 seconds. Ask yourself, “Do I know this is real?” If the answer is no, don’t hit “share” until you’ve done some research.

TIP: Ask Yourself: Am I Making These Common Mistakes?

Reading Only a Headline
One recent study found that 59 percent of social media links aren’t clicked on and read before they’re shared. Don’t just believe a headline. Take time to evaluate the post.

Thinking that First Means Best
The top result in an internet search isn’t always the most reliable source of information. Companies often pay to place ads for their sites at the top of the search results page.

Not realizing you’re Seeing an Ad
Look closely at posts, videos, and articles. If you see words like “sponsored content,” “paid post,” or “presented by,” someone is trying to sell you something.

TIP: “ACT” Like a Pro

Professional fact-checkers are a lot like detectives. They learn to evaluate evidence and to be skeptical of anything that seems off. Here’s how you can “ACT” like they do:
Ask who made the post, video, or website.
Check multiple sources.
Take a closer look.

Source: Scholastic / Illustration: Agata Raczynska


How to Manage Your Image Online

FROM A 16-YEAR-OLD WITH FOUR SEPARATE INSTAGRAM ACCOUNTS

I think social media is a great way to keep in touch with your friends, but sometimes you don’t want to have to worry about how you’re going to represent yourself publicly. So I have a semiprivate account with 1,000 followers. I’ll accept you if I met you once, even if we’re not close. This sounds superficial, but the pictures on that account are edited and made to look nice.
My second private account has about 100 followers. That’s for people like my classmates — we’ve talked enough for us to get to know each other. I’ll keep people updated on my everyday life, or I’ll post funny memories for a friend’s birthday. I don’t put on a filter, literally — like, no color. And I have an extra-private one that has only seven followers. It’s like a group text in picture format. My last account is for food reviews, and that’s the only one that’s completely open. Even though I think a lot about privacy, I never post anything incriminating. My mom has the passwords to all my accounts.

— AMBER FU, PALO ALTO, CALIFORNIA

Read more on Life advice from teen experts

“The Internet gave us access to everything; but it also gave everything access to us.” – James Veitch