This story was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education.The overwhelming majority of young people are unable to sift through online information and separate fact, fiction and opinion, according to a new study from Stanford University.Among the hair-raising findings: 93 percent of college students tested were unable to flag a lobbyist\u2019s website as a biased source of information. Younger students fared poorly, too. Fewer than 20 percent of high school students knew that simply looking at one photo online is not enough research to gauge if something is really happening. And among middle school students, 80 percent did not understand that \u201csponsored content\u201d on a news organization\u2019s website is paid advertising.The study, Evaluating Information: The Cornerstone of Civic Online Reasoning, was produced by researchers at the Stanford Graduate School of Education. They measured the ability of students to accurately gauge the validity of information they encounter online. The researchers created 56 tasks for students in 12 states, and collected 7,804 student responses from January 2015 until June 2016. \u201cNever have we had so much information at our fingertips,\u201d the study\u2019s authors wrote. \u201cWhether this bounty will make us smarter and better informed or more ignorant and narrow-minded will depend on our awareness of this problem and our educational response to it. At present, we worry that democracy is threatened by the ease at which disinformation about civic issues is allowed to spread and flourish.\u201dInitially, the researchers worried their questions would be too easy. They were working with people who have grown up immersed in all things digital. But the \u201cdigital native\u201d moniker is not always an accurate representation of reality. (And young teachers are not always as technologically adept as some might think.)\u201cOur first round of piloting shocked us into reality,\u201d the report\u2019s authors wrote. \u201cMany assume that because young people are fluent in social media they are equally savvy about what they find there. Our work shows the opposite.\u201dThese are vital skills for a generation of children who look beyond printed books carefully curated by librarians. Students \u2013 and teachers \u2013 need to be able to navigate information presented online. It\u2019s not just about reading the news; open educational resources hold promise, too, but only if people know how to flag quality information.And, according to the study, children were poorly equipped to explain how to find accurate, credible information online.The research also asked students to judge the veracity of claims made on social media.For example, when presented with a tweet made from a liberal advocacy group, half of the students judged the tweet without bothering to click the link to read the source of information presented to advance the advocacy group\u2019s claim. And among the students who did click, few were able to articulate why a poll that was cited was credible or not. They made general statements about the dangers of social media, instead of doing the work to investigate the source of information contained in the tweet.The report suggests that schools must teach students the skills they need to be savvy consumers of news and information they encounter online. And that work must begin early, the authors say \u2013 in elementary school, ideally. In the coming months, Stanford\u2019s History Education Group plans to release materials to help teachers do so.Nichole Dobo is a reporter and the Hechinger Report blended learning fellow. Her work has been published in the Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic's online edition, Mind\/Shift, WHYY NewsWorks, Slate and in McClatchy newspapers. She has more than 10 years of experience writing about education.