September 28, 2021

Misinformation & How Teens Respond to Social Media

With everything that is happening in the world right now, people are being hit with constant news alerts, campaign ads, and information about what is going on. With all the different opinions happening, we are all struggling to figure out what’s fact and what’s fiction.

While all this is happening to you and your peers, teens are no different. In an age with social media such as Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok, misinformation seems to be spread to them just as easily as it would to us. Yet, this is what the younger generation has always known, so it may be harder for them to determine what is true or what process they should use to weed out the clickbait and angled content they come across. Here, we’ll go over the effects of misinformation and ways adults and teens alike can handle it on social media.

teen looking at her phone while sitting on the couch

The Effects of Misinformation on Teens

Social media has brought misinformation to light and it can be hard for teens to understand what is real, and what isn’t. It’s no secret that teenagers use social media significantly more than their parents. Often, they hear or see the viral videos and headlines before them. This can be troublesome because false or distorted information can manipulate our emotions into believing something is true or, at the very least, affect our opinion. This may cause an outrage of emotions for your teen and, if this happens too often or over a long period of time, it can eventually lead to mental illnesses such as anxiety or depression. The negative effects of misinformation can be damaging, and that is why it is important to keep your teen educated and help them battle any misinformation they see online.

Talking To Your Teen About Misinformation

Misinformation isn’t anything new. Every generation has dealt with it, but it has always come in a different form. In 2021, social media isn’t too new, but teens are accessing it at younger ages and for longer time periods than their counterparts did in the past. Also, with more individuals (both adults and teens) on social media, information is getting to us faster than ever before. This is especially true in the age of TikTok. TikTok is a video-sharing app where users can post their content, whatever it may be. Because of its recent popularity, users have been posting their opinions about what is going on in the world. With so many differing opinions out there, it can be hard to tell if something is true or not. To help your teen understand misinformation, we suggest talking to them about it. Before having that conversation, here are some things you might want to keep in mind.

Be Realistic

If your teen is adamant about the misinformation they hear is true, it can be difficult to change their mind. If your teen is mature and can digest information without worrying, then it is best to be clear and honest. You’ll also want to help them understand that basing decisions based on a few videos they’ve seen on TikTok or what several influencers are saying can be harmful. Explain to them that they need to expand their sources and how important it is to check with authoritative information. One of the best ways to help them understand this is by tailoring examples that are real to them.

Try Using Examples

We suggest using a “lite” conspiracy or using a ludicrous statement that has been made on a social media platform. You can protect your teen against misinformation by introducing a weak version of the misinformation before they’re exposed to it and debunking it with them. This can help them learn to logically think through things and not believe everything they hear right off the bat. You’ll want to help them understand what’s problematic about certain reasoning and encourage them to ask questions.

mom and daughter sitting on the couch talking

Fighting Misinformation

It’s important to remember that misinformation is everywhere, and it is easy to fall for it no matter what age you are. No one is immune to misinformation and when fighting it, consider these suggestions.

  • Be wary of any reposts
  • Use reverse image searches
  • See who posted the information
  • Check for context
  • Check your own bias
  • Seek other perspectives
  • Check the comments

Unless you fully restrict your teen from social media, it is almost guaranteed that they’ll see some type of misinformation. Even with restrictions, they can still receive misinformation from friends and family members. The suggestions above are just a few things you can do to help you and your teen battle misinformation when it is seen.

keyboard with fact check button

Encourage Healthy Skepticism

To help your teen cope with the spread of misinformation, parents should encourage teens to act as healthy skeptics of all information. Healthy skepticism happens when you’re not doubting something just for the sake of it and question things to discover the truth. By encouraging healthy skepticism, parents are helping their teens prepare to evaluate and possibly solve problems they’ll see on social media going forward. These are skills they’ll be able to use not just for verifying truths but in research projects, at school, and problem-solving situations they’ll come across throughout life.

How Turn-About Ranch Can Help

Do you feel like your teen’s excessive consumption of social media has severely affected their behavior? If so, we are here to help!, Contact us, and we’ll be happy to help and answer any questions you may have. Here at Turn-About Ranch, we are committed to helping your teen live a healthy, successful life. For more information about us and the teens we’ve helped, check out our testimonials.

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Turn-About Ranch

280 N 300 E.
Escalante, UT 84726
(800) 842-1165