A study by Stanford University claims that most students can’t tell the difference between real news articles and sponsored content.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the Stanford study is the largest one to date that focuses on how young people consume and evaluate online media. The study questioned approximately 7,084 students ranging in age from middle school to college students.
According to the WSJ, the study claims that when asked to distinguish between sponsored content and actual news article on the same website, 82 percent of students were unable to tell the difference, and nearly 70 percent of students felt no reason to distrust a financial article written by the CEO of a major bank. Visual stimulus ranked as extremely important to students, with many defining the trustworthiness of a tweet based on the size of attached photos and the tweet’s level of detail.
The WSJ also reports that the study suggests that students find it hard in the digital age to evaluate the credibility of online news sources, and that although many schools now offer media literacy courses, the dwindling number of librarians has left many students with an inability to research properly.
Lead author of the study and Stanford professor, Sam Wineburg, suggests that students should learn how to properly fact check and question the legitimacy of websites using other sources of information, and that a sites high Google ranking does not immediately guarantee that the content it hosts is factual or accurate.