North Texas Daily

Public schools should educate their students on media literacy

Public schools should educate their students on media literacy

Public schools should educate their students on media literacy
July 14
13:00 2022

Sixteen years since the creation of Twitter, and we are still learning just how much social media has permeated our society. It makes and breaks careers and headlines, it connects us and can irreversibly change someone’s life. So why aren’t public schools addressing it?

The youth in America are spending more time than ever consuming media, with the average minor spending almost eight hours on entertainment media every day, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. With so much of their time being focused on consuming online media, it is essential that schools provide their students with opportunities to understand the content they consume.

Perhaps people worry that teaching media literacy will encourage children to become over-involved with social media, but that fear is already a reality.

What’s more dangerous is creating a generation that sees social media as a reliable, safe and always trustworthy well of information. False information spreads much faster than the truth, so it is imperative kids grow up learning how to identify it as it presents itself.

So how do we imbue our posterity with media literacy? The first step is to ensure students know how to approach any piece of information. If it is a social media post, the first step would be to look at who is making the claim. A user like “IDontLikeBugs3699” is not as reliable a source as NBC’s official Twitter. The next step is validating the information with prior knowledge and comparing it to other sources.

Media literacy is much more than simple fact-checking, though. Information that is true can be used just as maliciously as lies, so contextualizing information is an imperative step in any media literacy lesson. Statistics can have conflating variables that throw off findings and improper examples can be given in a news story — not everything is as it seems.

Advocating for students to question the information they receive will make them smarter and more independent thinkers without the need to overbearingly guide their learning. It could also potentially drive them to seek out knowledge for the sake of their own education.

Part of what makes teaching media literacy so great is the opportunity for intersecting lessons. A history teacher can give a brief media literacy lesson before a unit on the history of free speech. An English teacher can draw connections between verifying sources for online information and gathering sources for an essay.

An art teacher can take the lessons instilled by media literacy to help students understand how advertising uses appealing visual design to deliver information. Learning how to approach media in a healthy way is a net win across the board from all subjects of thought.

Beyond how an extended education on media can help strengthen a student’s intelligence, becoming media literate will also help contain the overuse of entertainment. Learning how social media algorithms are designed to radicalize and create obsession or how to analyze a variety of media content can be paramount in preparing generations for a better quality of life.

The hardest part about teaching media literacy in public schools will be finding the support for it. In a country with states that won’t let students say “gay” in schools, advocating for the enemy of ignorance is an uphill battle. Funding is the most sacred of resources in school districts, and many will not be willing to part with even a penny if it could be spent elsewhere.

It’s not a far stretch to hope for this next step in modern education. Many schools already have courses on cyberbullying and a sidestep to teach about engaging with information online isn’t too long of a reach. Regardless of the circumstances, pushing to teach media literacy is a war worth waging if it means giving America’s youth the opportunity to prepare themselves for the digital age.

Featured Illustration by Erika Sevilla

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Ayden Runnels

Ayden Runnels

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