'Tree Octopus' Hoax Shows Kids Believe Anything Online
Students believe everything they read online, warns researcher
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 4, 2011 5:01 AM CST
Updated Feb 6, 2011 7:28 AM CST
"Every year tree octopuses leave their homes in the Olympic National Forest and migrate toward the shore and, eventually, their spawning grounds in Hood Canal," the website explained to gullible kids.   (zapatopi.net)

(Newser) – Today's students have a worrying habit of believing everything they read on the Internet, according to a researcher who found it easy to trick young people into believing that endangered "tree octopuses" live in the Pacific Northwest. Students directed to a phony website highlighting the creature's plight continued to insist it was real even after researchers explained the hoax, the Daily Mail reports.

The inability to distinguish between fact and fiction online means students may not be developing the critical thinking skills needed for college and work, the lead researcher warns. "Most students simply have very little in the way of critical evaluation skills," he says. "They may tell you they don't believe everything they read on the Internet, but they do. It's a cause for serious concern. Anyone can publish anything on the Internet and today's students are not prepared to critically evaluate the information they find there."