How Do I Tell Fake News from Real News?


by Michelle Motoyoshi


Back when my daughter was still in diapers, she used to get terrible diaper rash. Like zombie-apocalypse terrible. It would conquer her entire tiny rear section and turn it into a splotchy, flaming red, ooz. You get the picture. My poor girl would weep in pain, and I would wail in frustration. The cream my doctor had recommended wasn’t helping, and being a new mom, I didn’t know what else I could do. So, I did what most of us do when we have question we don’t know the answer to.


I Googled it.


If you’ve ever Googled something, then you know what happened next. Thousands of links scrolled before me from a thousand different sources, each proclaiming to possess the magic cure to my daughter’s malicious malady. Try this cream. Make your own ointment from home grown herbs. Use cloth diapers. Don’t use diapers at all. I obviously couldn’t try every suggestion, and I certainly didn’t want to turn my daughter’s backside into a series of lab experiments. But I needed an answer. Which of the thousand possibilities was reliable and not a load of potentially harmful hogwash?


I decided to borrow a tool from my old grad school days: As I looked at each website, I asked, “How do they know?”


“How do they know?” is an important question to ask because where people’s information comes from matters - a lot. We know this instinctively. It’s why we don’t ask Grandpa to help fix our computer or our 10-year-old nephew Jimmy to offer advice on dating. Not all sources are equal. Just because information has made it on to a website, a talk show, or even into a book doesn’t automatically make it trustworthy. It helps to inquire what someone’s claims are based on. How do they know what they know? Is their claim based on their own personal experience? On the experiences of people they know? On an article they read? On something they saw on Facebook or YouTube? If you can’t tell where a source’s information came from or the source won’t say, be suspect. Respectable sources reveal how they know what they know.


In the vast majority of cases, the most reliable answer to “how do they know?” is scientific evidence. What do we mean by scientific evidence? We mean findings from multiple research studies – studies that have systematically (i.e. following a standard and repeatable procedure) gathered and analyzed data. It is science’s systematic methods that set it apart from other ways of gaining knowledge. Why is being systematic so important? Being systematic ensures that conclusions aren’t based on rare or unusual circumstances or on personal opinions or feelings or on a desire to make a profit. That, in turn, ensures that conclusions are based on how things actually are, that they reflect reality and not someone’s beliefs or political or economic agenda. In short, science gets us as close to objectivity as is humanly possible. And to truly understand how we and our world work, we need as much objectivity as we can get.


Being a mother myself, I know that asking “how do they know?” of every person, book, or website that offers help can be a daunting task, especially when your child needs help now and you’re running on a handful of Cheerios and three hours of sleep.


Fortunately, there are people out there doing that work for you. Here at HelloJoey, we only offer information and advice that is supported by scientific evidence. Our team of researchers combs through current research and consults experts in the relevant fields in order to understand the current state of knowledge on our topics. If there is no scientific support for a claim or advice, we don’t put it on the app. So, when you use HelloJoey, you can rest assured that you’ll be getting the kind of reliable, vetted information you want and need for you and your child.


App Tip:

In the app, you'll notice the word "Bonus" on each block. In order to unlock the bonus, simply listen to the episode or read the articles, then try your hand at the "build" part of the block, or the activities associated with the episode. (They're fun and useful, don't skip them!) We don't want to give too much away, but when you unlock that bonus, you'll see evidence of just how seriously we take our research around here – and you'll get access to a deeper dive into the topics that resonate with you the most.


Ready to go, parents? Check out the app! Your journey toward more insightful parenting is just a hop, skip, and a jump away.

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