If you’re like most teens, you probably get the majority of your news and other important information online—through social media and websites. Because just about anyone with a computer can publish web content (and make it seem believable!), it’s important to look at everything you’re seeing with a critical eye. This is especially true of information related to your health and safety.

Here are some ways to make sure that you’re not falling for “fake news” or other misinformation online:

  • Check the source. Is the site name or the web address unusual (for instance, does it end with “.co” instead of “.com”)? If it’s not a trusted, valid source—like a well-known national news outlet, an .edu site, or a .gov site—it may be suspect.
  • Check the writing. Does the writing contain words in all caps, and/or use exaggerated language like “The ONE THING you aren’t supposed to know” or “You won’t believe what happens next”? If so, it may be clickbait— attention-getting content whose main purpose is to get people to click on it.
  • Check your gut. Fake news and clickbait often try to elicit strong emotions to reel you in. Does the information make you extremely angry, scared, or excited? Does it seem too good (or too bad) to be true? Dig deeper! Check multiple sources before you believe what you’re reading.

Helpful Links

Here are some other useful resources to help you think critically about online media.

Google Safety Center
Helpful resources for digital safety from Google and their partners, including information about online privacy, avoiding scams, and how to be a good digital citizen.

PBS NewsHour: Media Literacy
Videos and articles related to media literacy—the ability to analyze and understand how, why, and for whom media messages are being created and used.

Snopes is a well-known, reliable resource for checking (and busting!) internet rumors, “urban myths,” and other widely-circulated stories.

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