Cyber Florida launches digital literacy program to help kids separate facts from fiction online

Since it’s getting harder to catch what’s real and what’s not online, Cyber Florida launched a new program to teach local students how to figure out facts from fiction.

Most people know the phrase of not believing everything on the internet, but studies show wrong and misleading information easily influences Americans. Cybersecurity leaders say it’s important that young minds know how to spot the differences.

"It’s research like that that led us to the broader conclusion that if this can happen with COVID-19 if it can happen with the election, it can happen with anything," said Ron Sanders, the staff director at Cyber Florida: The Florida Center for Cybersecurity.

Sanders said they launched a new digital literacy program for kindergarten through 12th grade across Florida. Cyber Florida said it’s vital to teach young minds how to figure out what’s fact from fiction.

"In asking around to educators, particularly K-12 educators, what we found is some are teaching their kids this, but for the most part there’s no sustained standardized effort to do this," said Sanders.

Some of the lessons include spotting misinformation and disinformation, made-up news stories, and deep fake videos they may come across online.

"We can teach them how to source their own information, to find things out for themselves. Don’t be passive about it," Sanders said.

Artificial intelligence-altered videos of real footage known as deep fakes are such a concern, the FBI put out a warning in March.

"See if you can tell whether the information is originating from overseas or some fringe group or whether the likes, the volume of likes is bot-generated," said Sanders regarding tips for verifying content shared online.

At the height of social media, cybersecurity experts said this generation should think critically about what pops up on their feed and do their own research.

"These are lessons that parents can learn and also lessons that parents should be imparting to their kids because this is a sharp stick in the wrong hands," said Sanders.

Cyber Florida hopes to take the digital literacy program to other schools across the country and eventually be able to expand the lessons for schools around the world.