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How to help kids (and adults) spot fake news
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Welcome to At The End Of the Day. I write this newsletter for a people-first perspective on the news. If you’re new here, subscribe. If you love what you’re reading and hearing, share this on your socials.
This week has been a struggle. It’s a combination of things including a large workload, illness, everyday kid stress (their friendship problems—my heart breaks!) and of course, the news is especially heavy.
I don’t need to share any news with you regarding the school massacre in Uvalde, Texas. If you’re a parent, I know you cried this week. It has not been easy.
Sharing and re-sharing the news is not the point of this newsletter. I know you read and hear much of the same breaking news and current affairs that I do.
But in order to just deal and be a better human being for the immediate people in my life, I need perspective. I need to put my phone down after I’ve read all the breaking news (*closes the Twitter app, slowly backing away*). With this news story especially, knowing more and more details won’t change deeply entrenched views or make senators in the U.S. turn back time to sign gun legislation that might make mass shootings like this less frequent.
We need to get out of your own minds for a minute and just be. It’s how to refuel and have enough surplus energy to apply ourselves where we can, to get creative about making change, or just be that supportive friend or family member, to be present for them.
Some of my moments of true pleasure this week started as annoying moments.
For example, my daughter left her school portraits on the ground when she was dismissed at the end of the day. When she got home and told me this, I immediately flashed back to the disagreement my husband and I had about even paying for these photos (he doesn’t see the point, whereas I’m like, “These are classic!”).
“Okayyyy,” I said slowly as it began to rain outside. “Should I bike over and quickly get them?” I did and I found them scattered on the soccer field. Cue my first dry laugh.
When I returned, she rushed over to me to open the envelope. “Don’t I look great?” she squeaked. She was Lizzo-level feeling herself.
“Yes,” I laughed. “But why didn’t you smile?”
My daughter is a very upbeat, hilarious person. But ever since she recently flipped through a fashion magazine and asked my husband why everyone looks so serious, she’s been, let’s say, experimenting.
Why she didn’t smile is a question I’d already asked her, exasperated, when we got the proofs back. But I couldn’t help myself and had to ask again.
“I mean, what did the photographer say when they took your picture?” She had gone back to making some kind of cardboard hamster-ville and didn’t even look up.
“He told me to smile.”
“So why didn’t you?”
“I didn’t want to.”
“Okay,” I sighed. Pause. “Good job.”
Why does my eight-year-old make more sense than I do right now?
I’ve been trying to say yes to treats more, say yes to their independence, say yes to who they are becoming. There is so much sorrow and disappointment in the world, in their playground antics even, as they navigate friendships. I want to be a foil for what they experience out in the world so they can have an anchor that is safe and secure.
On Wednesday morning, I dreaded that they would go to school and hear about the school shooting in Texas. I decided they should hear it from me first. A lot of my older child’s friends have phones and read the news. At least I could be the safe, secure adult-type-person they would hear it from so they wouldn’t be caught unaware.
I broached the topic very gently, by talking about gun control and laws that protect us, before getting into the news story. Over breakfast, I kept my information short and let them lead with questions. And then I reassured them very strongly that a school shooting wouldn’t happen to them, as I sent them off to school.
Gone are the days that I could just click off the news. My kids are too old for that. And as I told them about the shooting that morning, I leaned heavily on advice I got from author Joyce Grant.
Joyce is my guest this week on the podcast and the author of, “Can You Believe It? How To Spot Fake News and Find The Facts.” I was very excited to learn from her about how I can help guide my children through a world of online misinformation. We recorded this interview several weeks ago and she happened to mention her tips for dealing with challenging, tragic news. I followed her advice to a T while I spoke to my kids about the school shooting. And it worked for us. I’ve linked to it in Further Reading, below.
I spend a decent amount of time on social media. This guarantees that I come across bots, who follow me, DM me, try to interact and goad me. Some of the bots use gorgeous male model pics (and their grids are full of food and travel—the real eye candy, lol). Some of the bots spew racist hate.
When Joyce talks about spotting fake news, she doesn’t just mean news stories, she means all the traps that are set up for us all over the internet. I’ve had since forever and a day to recognize a male model doesn’t want to actually know how my day is going. But what about a 10-year-old? A 12-year-old? You know, your kid who was just handed a phone and is goggle-eyed at the way the world is opening up to them?
Joyce’s book is so important and your kids could use a copy. Thanks to Kids Can Press, I have five copies to give away.
My giveaway is exclusively through this newsletter. All you have to do is hit reply with “Spot Fake News” in the subject line and I will pick five winners at random. Contest closes Monday, May 30 @ 8 p.m. ET.
If you’d rather buy it, you can pre-order here in Canada, here in the U.S. or choose your local indie bookshop. I’m not even being paid for this, you should know that 😅 I just really believe that if there’s one thing you can give your kid (okay, it’s a never-ending list, I know) it’s media literacy.
Hug your people this weekend, and if you can’t, drop an emoji-filled text, a voice note, forward an email, just anything to let them know you’re thinking about them. Those heart emojis will come around back to you and we need them to get us through.
Thank you for reading,
✨✨✨ At The End Of the Day newsletter is edited by Laura Hensley and the podcast is produced by Olivia Trono ✨✨✨
Discussing Challenging News Stories With Kids, Teaching Kids News
This is a Tweet I especially liked:
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