Last month I lamented about “the end of an era” with the Patriot Press, knowing that I still had one more issue to put out before the new mobile media application was up and running.  Perhaps I was hoping for a groundswell of public opinion pleading for the newsletter to be spared an untimely death.  But alas, no such thing occurred.  I’m afraid my suspicions were confirmed and very few if any do read much of the contents in the Patriot Press.  Armed with this knowledge I feel emboldened to leap upon my soapbox and begin a lecture designed to stir the souls of all who listen and move them to act appropriately.  For those who agree will read on, while those who may be offended most likely have already stopped reading.

      About a year ago I wrote in this spot how a 12 year old won the America’s Got Talent million dollar prize.  You might say that lightning struck twice because this year 12 year old ventriloquist Darci Lynne Farmer and her singing puppets took home the top prize!  To have a mere child win once is amazing, for it to happen in consecutive years is just unbelievable!  Yet it only underscores my contention that we are raising a generation with far greater potential than we can completely comprehend.  It is not just a cliché to say, “our children are our greatest resource”, they are quickly become a far greater resource then any generation’s adults! 

       With that in mind we must stay in the mindset of protecting this treasure.  This entails many, many things.  One of them is to be sure they always have the capacity to discern right from wrong, good from evil, and truth from fiction.  This is becoming increasing more important and more difficult with each passing day in our society.  We are rapidly becoming aware of just how much false information is equally available as factual information through the media.  Today it is estimated that 64% of Americans receive their news from social media.  A recent poll revealed that Facebook is the sole source of news for 50% of Americans.  A very disturbing fact now that we are learning just how easy it is to “weaponized” social media to manipulate public opinion through false and misleading stories on Facebook and other social media sites. 

         When I was growing up there was no internet (groan) and we only had three TV stations (gasp).  People weren’t able to “Photoshop” images or doctor audio recordings.  If you saw it on TV you could trust that it was the real deal.  Still, my Dad’s advice still resonates, “believe half of what you see and none of what you hear.”  I’m often glad that I had the good sense to remember this bit of wisdom.  I often wish that this adage reached the ears of everyone as a child.  I’m constantly reminded that my job would be so much easier if everyone practiced not believing everything they see and hear.  So much of the hate and anger that people exhibit stems from falsehoods that get repeated and get mistaken to be “facts”.   Children, while extremely gifted and talented, are impressionable and easily misled.  As adults we have an obligation to see that they develop the critical thinking skills to not only tell fact from opinion, but understand the danger of not knowing the difference.

         One of the things you learn in research is the need to verify your conclusions with three sources of valid data.  Mainstream news reporters know the importance of having more than one source verify a story.  However, this is not the case with much of what you find on the internet that passes for “news”.  Our children need to be taught and to learn the difference between the “truth” and what is “blogged” or created as “fake” for the purpose of selling ads or simply to create controversy.  Schools cannot do this alone.  This is one of the areas where a true partnership must exist between the school and home.  We need parents to support our efforts.  Talk with your child about not believing everything they see or read.  Let them know the dangers and pitfalls about jumping to conclusions about what they see on social media and other places on the internet.

          While the World Wide Web is a wonderful tool that has brought the world to our fingertips, it requires users to be responsible and cautious in so many ways.  Teaching children to be responsible “surfers” of the Internet is just as important as teaching them not to take candy from strangers!