Our mission is to turn schoolchildren in Europe aged 10-15 into powerful lie detectors and critical thinkers in a world increasingly populated by propaganda and distorted facts online, empowering them to understand news media, make informed choices and resist peer pressure as they assemble their worldview.
- To turn working journalists into active participants in the drive for news literacy, creating positive contact between journalists and children as well as their teachers.
- To attune teachers to digital media risks and to the need for further classroom discussion of a topic often relegated to IT lessons and after-school clubs.
- To create memorable classroom experiences and lasting awareness of children’s own participation in social networks; to propel pupils into an ongoing conversation of news consumption and verifying news.
- To influence educational policy-making through continued public speaking in varied fora, advocating for the systematic uptake and inclusion of news literacy in the curricula of teacher-training colleges and classrooms across Europe, as urged by Unesco and OECD.
Why it matters
Lie Detectors works to improve news literacy, increase awareness of misinformation and further the general public’s understanding of the mainstream media industry. It promotes positive and non-political contact between young people and journalists. It does this by sending working journalists into schools to deliver interactive classroom sessions.
Fake news creates a confusing, frightening world for people of all ages, pressuring them into adopting views without understanding their intention. LIE DETECTORS is a non-profit that helps teenagers and pre-teens learn how to spot and resist the growing volume of manipulative media crowding their Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat accounts as they start to forge an independent world view. A proliferation of news and fake-news sources, distribution networks and social media – combined with a greater polarisation by mainstream press – make it increasingly hard to tell fact from fiction. Growing numbers of young people report being turned off politics because of a feeling of alienation in the face of misinformation.
LIE DETECTORS has no interest in telling young people what to think. It aims to empower them to base their choices on reliable information and be actively aware of bias and persuasion. Children worldwide are taught not to accept sweets from strangers. As they consume more media, they need news literacy to do so wisely.
How we do it
LIE DETECTORS deploys journalist volunteers to teach classroom sessions, recruiting them primarily from alumni circles of recognized journalism schools. Country focus will begin in Belgium and Germany.
Professional journalists teach the 45-minute sessions in the presence of a teacher, offering follow-up material where desired. Sessions include an overview of fake news, methods of testing for misinformation, and analysis of drivers of the fake-news phenomenon. Interactive sections – designed to suit the relevant age group – help children understand how mainstream media selects news and may insert bias to present a picture of reality that is often incomplete. Material for homework or follow-up sessions – where – allows children to develop deeper a understanding of selective storytelling and perspective.
LIE DETECTORS has experienced intense interest in its pilot program from schools, journalists, potential funders and policymakers. To date it has
- designed and tested classroom sessions lasting 45-60 minutes for target age groups and collected feedback from more than 320 children and their teachers;
- successfully transferred the sessions from Belgium (English-speaking classrooms) to Germany (German-speaking classrooms);
- entered into partnerships with First Draft News and EAVI Literacy for Citizenship among others.
- introduced the project to lawmakers, politicians, journalists, teachers and the general public at closed-door and public events with audiences ranging from 50 to 15,000 in Germany, Belgium, Bosnia&Herzegovina and Denmark among others. LIE DETECTORS has presented its concept to an audience of 15,000 at the Leipzig Festival of Light, which commemorates the German city’s role in ending communism.
At its inception, the work of LIE DETECTORS work is aimed predominantly but not exclusively at school-aged children and their teachers, with a view to increasing general interest in and access to news literacy programs in Europe. LIE DETECTORS is currently active in Belgium and Germany. It will expand operations in both countries and pursue partnerships with relevant collaborating bodies to expand its program to other European countries. Countries currently being considered include Austria, the Netherlands and Poland.
LIE DETECTORS is non-political, its remit universal. The success of LIE DETECTORS should be judged on the number of classrooms it reaches and its ability to operate across different countries, languages and cultures. It should be judged on the success of its aim to empower people to base choices on reliable information and be actively aware of bias and persuasion.
“Days after your presentation, they are still talking about the things they learned during your visit.”
“Can you come back next week?”
“A good number teachers will be interested in being trained in media literacy by you as a journalist, also in order to follow up on your sessions.”
“It is good that I learn this now, and not later, because we are a lot on social media and then it is important to know this.” Primary school student, Norwegian School, Waterloo, Belgium
“I also changed my news habits based on our conversation as I was aware I was consuming only progressive/liberal media and not hearing the other voices out there. I now have a more balanced news approach.”
Who we are