I had to get gas for my car today. I drive a lot. I go through a tank of gas a week just to chauffeur my kids to school and run some errands and get to the yoga studio. Today, as the gas pump gauge rolled over $65 in change, I was complaining out loud, mostly to myself. From the backseat, I heard a comment from the peanut gallery.
“The gas prices are high because Obama is living it up and that’s driving the gas prices up,” Luke quips.
“What?” I gasped. Had that comment just come out of the mouth of my eight year old son?
“It’s true. Obama’s driving up the cost of gas.”
“What exactly do you know about the economics of petroleum supply and demand?” I questioned.
“I don’t know. I just heard that somewhere,” he replied.
“Well, obviously you just heard it somewhere. Where exactly did you hear it?”
He thought for a second and then said, “I think it was on the front of one of the Lego videos I saw on YouTube.”
“Yeah. Some of those videos on YouTube have ads on the front of them,” Joe affirmed. “And, you know how many of those videos Luke watches on YouTube.”
That’s when I took the time to have a quick pow wow with my kids about how you can’t believe everything you hear or read. I informed them that all “facts” should be considered suspect until adequately researched and, even then, “facts” are relayed through human filters, which means they’re likely not 100% subjective. I cautioned them that if you are going to make blanket statements about any topic, you’d best have adequate, reliable, and reputable factoids under your hat to share with those who might question the validity of your statements. Then, I reminded them that no eight year old kid should have any opinion on politics because politics is a complicated business that most adults can’t comprehend. You don’t have to look very far for proof of that statement.
I told my friend, Edie, about this exchange between Luke and I and she said, “See how ads influence people who don’t think for themselves?” This was precisely the point of my April 5th blog. People hear a sound byte from a “news” source, either online or on television, and then start parroting the information as if it’s gospel. It’s one thing when an eight year old hears something and repeats it thinking he’s got the answers. That’s simply naivete. When grown adults do it, it’s often due to lack of critical thinking and sound judgement. At least Luke has some time to get his head screwed on straight. I’ll simply keep challenging him and questioning his sources. Hopefully then, by the time he’s an adult, he will realize (as so many don’t) that there’s a vast difference between fact and opinion.