When it comes to the Internet, it seems kids will believe anything.
But it was thought that something as absurd as an octopus that lives in a tree might be enough to cast some doubts in their minds - it wasn't.
A creature concocted in a research 'laboratory' has exposed shocking Internet illiteracy among students, with a leading expert warning it could mean a learning crisis in schools.
Donald Leu, a researcher from the University of Connecticut, conducted a study among the Facebook generation of students - deemed 'digital natives' due to their online savviness - to try to prove they will believe anything they read on the internet.
He directed students to the website http://zapatopi.net/treeoctopus, where they found details about the fabricated endangered Pacific Northwest tree octopus in order to test students’ ability to evaluate information they find online.
It detailed the creature's appearance and habits, including how it uses its suckers to move along tree branches in a form of 'locomotion' and steals eggs from the nests of birds.
It even claimed that it was endangered mainly due to the penchant of wealthy 'fashionistas' to use the tree octopuses as ornamental hat decorations.
The students not only believed all of the fabricated information, but also insisted on the existence of the octopus, even when researchers explained all the information had been made up.
Mr Leu, founder and director of the New Literacies Research Lab at the university, warned that students were unable to discern between fact and fiction online and said this would lead them to graduate without the proper thinking skills needed to meet college and workforce demands.
He said: 'Most students simply have very little in the way of critical evaluation skills.The generation that lacks critical thinking skills happens to be overwhelmingly liberal. Methinks there be a connection.