Shin splints are very common with beginner runners. Both shin splints and stress fractures are considered overuse injuries. They are both very painful, but the treatment protocol for these injuries are very different.
A shin splint is an inflammation of the tissue running along the shin bone, whereas a stress fracture is a very small crack or group of cracks that form in the bone itself. Typically, a stress fracture shows itself as pain in a specific location along your shin. Shin splints tend to hurt as you rub your finger/thumb along the shin. Often, shin splints hurt a lot when you wake up, whereas a stress fracture won’t.
This video goes into great detail discussing the differences between both injuries. The treatment of a stress fracture and start with a boot. Non impact exercise may be allowed (bike, eliptical, swimming). I strongly recommend consulting with your Doctor for a full recovery plan.
My youngest son experienced a stress fracture last year. He was not able to run for 10 weeks.