Last year, teens’ desire for news was part of what prompted Snapchat, the onetime fave app of sexters everywhere, to launch partnerships with dozens of respected content providers, including VICE, The New York Times and Vogue, for its Discover feature. (In the United States, 22 per cent of Snapchat’s daily active users are 13 to 17, and an additional 36 per cent are 18 to 24.) The curated approach of Discover helps ensure fake news can’t get a toehold on Snapchat.
Still, kids’ ease with technology doesn’t automatically mean they’re media literate.
“On an anecdotal level, the kids are highly informed of what’s going on,” notes Shannon Howson, a geography teacher at Ursula Franklin Academy in the West End of Toronto whose lessons frequently deal with current events. “They’re often keeping me abreast on issues.” Still, she said, she has to remind students to think “about the validity of sources, knowing the bias and the skew of your sources and knowing if they’re reputable. The kids have no concept of that.”