Misinformation Overload: Teens Reveal Perceptions and Impact of Misinformation

The term “fake news” continues to dominate headlines as the rise of fabricated news stories, websites and other forms of misinformation intended to deceive, challenge the role of journalists and the facts around important civic conversations.

The PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs (SRL) turned to its network of teen reporters in urban and rural communities around the country to find out what young people really think about “fake news,” how it has affected their lives and the role that journalism plays in their communities.

The mosaic of voices demonstrate how a generation is navigating today’s digital ecosystem as institutions and communities search for solutions to help young people learn and understand the phenomenon of misinformation. The young voices highlighted in nearly 200 interviews shed light on how students are dealing living in a world where their attention is competing with a variety of sources and the hazard of misinformation overload remains constant.

Teen reporters in 65 schools across the country revealed an awareness of a new responsibility to fact-check in the process of understanding the difference between information intended to inform and information that is intended to mislead or distort.

“If there is bad information going around, how can we make rational, informed decisions about what is true and what is not?,” said Henry Smith from Royal Oak High School in Michigan.

Zoe Greenwald at West Ranch High School in Santa Clarita, California said, “We spend more time in the media than any other generation ever has and with all of this information being circulated, we need to make sure that the information that is getting to the audience is factual and is correct.”

Visit SRL’s full Misinformation Overload content series here.

Featured Student Reporting Labs:

Anacortes High School, Anacortes, WA

Aragon High School, San Mateo, CA

Black River Falls High School, Black River Falls, WI

Burlingame High School, Burlingame, CA

Canyon High School, Canyon Country, CA

Christopher Columbus High School, Miami, FL

Communication Arts High School, San Antonio, TX

Etiwanda High School, Rancho Cucamonga, CA

Dalton Middle School, Dalton, GA

Daniel Pearl Magnet High School, Lake Balboa, CA

Fort Mill High School, Fort Mill, SC

Fraser High School, Fraser, MI

Frederick V. Pankow Center, Clinton, MI

G. Holmes Braddock High School, Miami, FL

Granby High School, Norfolk, VA

Health and Science School, Beaverton, OR

Hughes STEM High School, Cincinnati, OH

Lanier High School, Austin, TX

Mesquite ISD Technology Excellence Center, Dallas TX

Mid-Maine Technical Center, Waterville, ME

Northview High School, Covina, CA

ParaDYM Academy, New Britain, CT

Pflugerville High School, Pflugerville, TX

Royal Oak High School, Royal Oak, MI

The U School, Philadelphia, PA

Wauwatosa West High School, Wauwatosa West, WI

West Ranch High School, Santa Clarita, CA

Westview High School, San Diego, CA

Windsor High School, Windsor, CA

Xavier College Preparatory, Phoenix, AZ