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The Myth of the Digital Native

How youth determine whether information is real or fake on the Internet — and what can be done to help them make those decisions
Young boy with computer
Sam Wineburg

In our digital world, where anyone with a little know-how can post unverified stories online and frame them as fact, when solid web design can make an advertisement seem like an article, and the question of what is and what is not "fake news" seems to come up on a daily basis, how do young people — "digital natives" — vet all the information in front of them?

"It's not just the question of real or fake, but it's the broader question of how do all of us evaluate the information that comes to us via screens," says Stanford Professor Sam Wineburg, founder of the Stanford History Education Group and lead author of a recent study measuring students' evaluation of digital content. "The choice before us is more complicated than a simple binary of real or fake. It's really about asking questions about where all information comes from in the social and political world."

In this edition of the Harvard EdCast, Wineburg discusses the study and some of its surprise results, and suggests what parents and teachers can do to help young people sort through what they see online.

About the Harvard EdCast 

The Harvard EdCast is a weekly series of podcasts, available on the Harvard University iTunes U page, that features a 15-20 minute conversation with thought leaders in the field of education from across the country and around the world. Hosted by Matt Weber and co-produced by Jill Anderson, the Harvard EdCast is a space for educational discourse and openness, focusing on the myriad issues and current events related to the field.


An education podcast that keeps the focus simple: what makes a difference for learners, educators, parents, and communities

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