What to do when your parents are sharing hoaxes on Facebook (2024)

Whenever I scroll through my mum's Facebook newsfeed — full of viral hoaxes — a part of me dies inside.

Whether it's copied-and-pasted legal jargon or a conspiracy theory meme, those in her feed have a knack for finding the dregs of the internet, circling the drain of the social media bathtub.

My parents aren't luddites. They're comfortable behind the wheel when it comes to regular, day-to-day technology — but navigating a newsfeed poses new, more sinister challenges.

To those who live and breathe social media, fake news and digital chainmail are an inevitable but avoidable part of the game. For those who aren't digital natives — my parents included — they're well-laid traps in a minefield of misinformation.

I somehow always assumed my parents were just as social media savvy as me. I never wanted to be the typical millennial, over-explaining social media to them, but I realised in my attempt not to be patronising, I'd overlooked their fundamental discomfort with these platforms.

I work as a social media producer, so I figured writing an easy how-to guide was the least I could do to get them up to speed. It covers:

  • Know where you stand
  • Five questions to ask yourself before 'engaging'
  • How to fact check
  • The consequences of your clicks

Into the social media abyss

I quickly realised that the constant fact checking, verifying and cross-referencing that had become second nature to me was an uncomfortable and alien concept to my parents.

The subtle cues I was used to detecting — Facebook's blue verification tick, the small "Sponsored" label on an Instagram post — were to them just more stimuli in a noisy, busy space.

"I didn't know that there were any issues around fact checking," my mum said, when I asked her what she thought of my homemade handbook.

"I assumed that whatever I was reading was OK. I've just taken things at face value and I didn't really question the sources."

My dad also admitted he's never felt comfortable navigating social media.

"For you, it's always been integral to your way of social interaction … whereas for us, we had to adopt it as a totally different way of interacting."

So what did I write in my social media guide?

Know that you are the product

Facebook and other social media platforms are extremely good at convincing people that Facebook is a product and you are a consumer.

This is only somewhat true.

Sure, Facebook is a product, but so are you. Or rather, your attention is the product Facebook is peddling.

That means that when you browse your newsfeed, every moment counts: every 'Like', comment and share. This means a lot to Facebook — it's how they sell incredibly targeted advertising — but it also means a lot to other stakeholders, like people who "own" Facebook pages or groups, or people who want to push an agenda.

These people know that they can trick you into consuming their content and interacting with it, and interactions (or "engagement", as it's known) are Facebook's currency.

So what does this mean for you?

It means that even if all you do is interact with things your friends post or 'Like', you're not actually a passive observer of the medium. Simply put, how you divide your attention on these platforms matters.

It matters because your attention can be co-opted by people and groups. It means that your half-second of interest, during which time you clicked 'Like', can very subtly shape how we communicate on Facebook and similar platforms. This is how alt-right arguments spread surreptitiously through the mainstream. This is how political meddling and opinion-forming sneaks into social media feeds. This is how 'fake news' became a thing.

The good news? It doesn't take that much to become a conscious user of social media.

The first step is just that: consciousness. That consciousness isn't to make you paranoid, but instead to hone a muscle: that of fact checking, verifying and impact assessing.

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Five questions to ask yourself before 'engaging'

Every time you see a piece of content on social media which isn't directly/obviously related to your life, or the lives of your friends (e.g. a photo of someone's baby, taken by them), you should be asking yourself some questions.

  1. 1.Where did this come from? Who posted it?
  2. 2.Why am I seeing it?
  3. 3.Is this content true? (Put simply, is it "fake news"?)
  4. 4.Is this content in context? (For example, sometimes real photos from one event are reposted to portray another.)
  5. 5.What message am I sending if I engage with this content?

How to fact check

  1. 1.Check who posted the content. Look for the blue verification tick. If a page or profile has this, it means it has proven itself to be legitimate.
  2. 2.Check for attribution/credit (this might be at the end of a video or at the bottom of a text post).
  3. 3.Reverse image search. That can help you find where else a photo has appeared.
  4. 4.Look it up. It sounds simple, but if you're looking at a hoax, search engines will likely tell you very quickly.
  5. 5.Use a verification tool like Snopes or RMIT-ABC Fact Check.

Know the consequences of your actions

  • You're teaching Facebook's algorithms that this is content you like and want to see more of.
  • You're telling the owners of that page or the proliferators of that dodgy content that you support them and they should keep going.
  • You're telling your friends and network that you endorse that content, whether it's stolen, fake news, or otherwise.

We all need to be more digitally literate

Roksolana Suchowerska is a researcher at the Centre for Social Impact at Swinburne University of Technology, and says critical awareness on social media is key to digital literacy.

"Digital literacy is all about being aware of what's going on online and how you're engaging with those processes," she says.

Dr Suchowerska said while formal social media training was available in some community settings like libraries, learning informally — from friends or relatives — was trickier to manage.

"What I hear from older adults is that although they can ask for help from younger people, quite often that help is quite rushed," she says.

My parents, at least, say they feel up to speed. And I feel somewhat vindicated.

"There's a bit of fear around Facebook as a Big Brother, but actually it's a big source of connection that's being overlooked by my generation," my mum says.

"I've mentioned [the guide] to a couple of my friends and they said, 'please send it on'. They're really interested to know."

Posted, updated

What to do when your parents are sharing hoaxes on Facebook (2024)


What to do if your elderly parent is being scammed? ›

Report the Scam

With all the relevant information, report this incident ASAP to the National Elder Fraud Hotline at 833-372-8311, which is open Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. We also advise contacting legal services and their bank to alert them to the incident and flag or freeze accounts.

Why does my mom keep getting scammed? ›

Scammers love to target older adults. Sure, they'll go after people of all ages. But con artists often prey on older adults because they assume that seniors are more trusting, are more vulnerable and less likely to report being scammed.

Can you call the police on a Facebook marketplace scammer? ›

If you have fallen victim to a scam, your local police department should be able to help along with the resources mentioned above.

Will Facebook refund my money if I was scammed? ›

If we approve a buyer's claim, in some situations, Facebook may offer a partial refund, otherwise the refunded amount will include the full purchase price of the item, tax, and shipping fees. Decisions on claims are made in our sole discretion. In some instances, we may offer a Goodwill Refund in our sole discretion.

What to do when an elderly parent is being catfished? ›

Report the Scam

When an aging parent has fallen victim to a scam, report it right away to the FBI's local field office. The FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center is another place to report the scam.

How do I help my family member who is being scammed? ›

How you can help
  1. Provide emotional support. ...
  2. Cut off contact with the scammer. ...
  3. Block any future payments. ...
  4. Change passwords. ...
  5. Keep evidence. ...
  6. Report it to the police. ...
  7. Take steps to prevent further scams.

What age gets scammed the most? ›

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), adults ages 18 to 59 are more likely to report losing money to scams, with online-shopping fraud, cryptocurrency investment scams and job scams being the most common.

Why does my mom try to control my money? ›

Your mother may want to protect you from negative outcomes, such as trying to control your spending out of fear that you'll wind up in debt, he says. “A parent may think, 'Do I let my kid get a bad credit rating?

What to do if your mom is suspicious of you? ›

Ask them to sit down with you for a meeting, to discuss their reasoning and concerns, and then ask them to listen to your concerns. Perhaps if you can come to some understanding about the reasons for their mistrust, and what steps you can take to become more trustworthy in their eyes, the suspicion will stop.

Is it worth reporting a scammer? ›

Your story could help someone avoid that scam. Then report it to the Federal Trade Commission at https://reportfraud.ftc.gov/. Your story could help the FTC stop the scammers.

How do you get rid of a scammer on Facebook? ›

If someone is repeatedly posting something you think is spam, consider unfriending, blocking or reporting that person. Check your login history for suspicious logins. Check your Activity Log and delete any unwanted actions. Delete any photos, posts, Pages, groups or events that you didn't create.

Do banks refund scammed money? ›

If you've transferred money to someone because of a scam

This type of scam is known as an 'authorised push payment'. Your bank or building society should reimburse you if it's registered with the Lending Standards Board under their Contingent Reimbursem*nt Model Code (CRM Code).

Can I recover money from a scammer? ›

Contact the company or bank that issued the credit card or debit card. Tell them it was a fraudulent charge. Ask them to reverse the transaction and give you your money back.

What to do after I got scammed? ›

Article: 6 Steps to Take after Discovering Fraud
  1. Don't pay any more money. ...
  2. Collect all the pertinent information and documents. ...
  3. Protect your identity and accounts. ...
  4. Report the fraud to authorities. ...
  5. Check your insurance coverage, and other financial recovery steps.

How do I file a claim with Facebook? ›

You can submit your Claim Form online or download the Claim Form and mail it to the Settlement Administrator. You may also call the Settlement Administrator to receive a paper copy of the Claim Form.

How to protect seniors from being scammed? ›

How to Protect Your Loved Ones From Being Scammed
  1. Have a talk before it becomes an issue. ...
  2. Help them have an active social life. ...
  3. Be aware of scams in your region. ...
  4. Replace their landline with a cell phone. ...
  5. Monitor their financial activity online.

Who to contact when worried about an elderly person? ›

Who To Contact When Worried About An Elderly Person. If there's an immediate threat or emergency then you should always contact 999 in the first instance. If a situation occurs but it's not an emergency, then call 111 for advice.

What are 5 signs of financial abuse of the elderly? ›

Warning Signs of Elder Financial Abuse
  • Checks or bank statements that go to the perpetrator.
  • Forgeries on legal documents or checks.
  • Large bank withdrawals or transfers between accounts.
  • Missing belongings or property.
  • Mood changes (such as depression or anxiety)
  • New changes to an elder's will or power of attorney.

How do I get help after being scammed? ›

Federal Trade Commission: Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) or use the Online Complaint Assistant to report various types of fraud, including counterfeit checks, lottery or sweepstakes scams, and more.

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