Teachers push for misinformation education
Much of the debate about combatting online misinformation and extremism revolves around government regulations and changes made by social media platforms. But educators around the country push for greater digital media literacy in education. (March 20)
California schools are now required to teach students how to recognize fake news by incorporating media literacy into lessons in English, science, math, and history classes throughout every grade level.
The bill was introduced by California State Assembly member Marc Berman (D-Menlo Park) in February and signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Oct. 13.
The bill expands on previous laws mandating that the State Department of Education post resources and instructional materials on media literacy on its website for school district to access.
Now, media literacy will be incorporated into standards for English, science, math and history when the standards are revised after Jan. 1.
States such as New Jersey, Illinois and Delaware also require media literacy lessons for students, Berman said on his website.
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Understanding the media literacy bill
The bill to incorporate media literacy was introduced in February largely because legislators want to make sure students can ask and answer questions about the “moral obligations and ethical standards regarding what appears on social media networks and digital platforms,” the bill’s text reads.
With so many young people online – over 90% – legislators said social media will continue to reach and influence more and more of them.
A huge part of the problem, the bill’s text argues, is that many young people can’t tell the difference between ads and news stories. Citing a study out of Stanford University, Berman said in the bill’s text that 82% of middle schoolers couldn’t tell the difference between ads and news stories.
On his website, Berman also cited a 2019 Stanford University study in which more than half of the high school students surveyed thought a “grainy” video that claimed to show ballot stuffing was “strong evidence” of voter fraud in the U.S.
The video was filmed in Russia, Berman said.
And with misinformation on the rise, the bill will seemingly give legislators a way to combat online misinformation and its interference with democratic decision-making and public health.
Berman said in the bill’s text that before this bill, there were no lessons put in place to help students become more information literate. With this bill signed into law, students from kindergarten through 12th grade will have the opportunity to brush up on their media literacy skills, the bill says.
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Recognizing fake news, misinformation
Legislators want to make sure all students in California have the media literacy skills they need to “critically consume and use social media and other forms of media.”
Berman said on his website that misinformation can have “terrifying” effects on the real world, citing climate denial, vaccine conspiracy theories and other “deadly consequences.”
“We have a responsibility to teach the next generation to be more critical consumers of online content and more guarded against misinformation, propaganda, and conspiracy theories,” he said. “In addition, this instruction will help students to be more responsible digital citizens, more intentional about what they put online, and better understand online safety and privacy.”