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Media Literacy

Do Canadian Children Need Better Media Literacy?

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Children in Canada need better access to up-to-date media literacy education to help them navigate what is real and what is fake or misleading online, experts say.

The rise of social media has led to the spread of misinformation and disinformation that is deliberately disseminated, said Dr. Ghayda Hassan, a clinical psychologist and director of the Canadian Practitioners Network on the prevention of radicalization and extremist violence.

“Because of the fast access to information, people cognitively do not have time to process and validate the type of information they are receiving. Chair for Prevention of Radicalization.

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“The fact that information is often shared on social media by people we like, trust, or who we may know directly gives them more credibility,” she said in an interview.

The COVID-19 pandemic is fueling fear and social and economic instability and creating conditions that intensify conspiratorial thinking, she said, adding that she was concerned that young people were particularly at risk.

Hassan calls for stricter standards for the management of content on their platforms by social media companies as well as a national strategy and mandatory curricula for digital media literacy in schools.

“It has to be compulsory, like teaching kids math.”

School curricula in every province and territory have included media literacy for nearly 20 years, but most of the material has not been updated to reflect changes in the media since the 1990s, said Matthew Johnson, director of education for Ottawa-based non-profit MediaSmarts .

“Today’s model does not consist of a distribution chain, but of a functionally infinite network,” he said. “In theory, anyone on YouTube can have as large an audience as a television news station or a world leader.”

Tools and signals that may have worked in the past on stories from traditional print and broadcast media, such as bylines or picture credits, may not be as useful for authenticating information on social media.

Some of these signals or reliability traits, such as having a professional looking website, could even be counterproductive, Johnson said.

The COVID-19 pandemic is fueling fear and fueling social and economic instability and creating conditions that intensify conspiratorial thinking, says one expert. # Misinformation #Disinformation

“That is often extremely misleading,” he said. “The people who purposely spread misinformation or disinformation know that we are looking at this and so will go to great lengths to create something that looks good.”

The extent to which media literacy is actually imparted varies by province and territory, Johnson said. For example, BC has what he called an excellent digital literacy curriculum, but it is not mandatory. In Ontario, where media literacy is part of the language arts curriculum being evaluated, it receives the least amount of class time among other components.

“We don’t have good current data on what teachers actually teach and what students actually learn at the national level.”

MediaSmarts offers parents, teachers, and students tips on how to authenticate information, from fact-checking tools to finding and verifying original sources, to reviewing others to gauge the truth and intent of a story.

It draws on key concepts of media and digital media literacy, including the fact that digital media has unexpected audiences, that online experiences are shaped by the social networks and search engines themselves, and that what we do online affects the real world World can have.

Joyce Grant is a freelance journalist and co-founder of TeachingKidsNews.com, a website that describes them as a transparent news source for children that also helps them understand how credible news is made and how to spot fraudulent or misleading content.

“The better it gets, the better it is to imitate fake news, the better it is to imitate journalism. So what really matters now is critical thinking, ”said Grant, who started giving in-class media literacy workshops about a decade ago.

She wants to help young people identify echo chambers or silos on social media and break out of them by looking for various sources of information.

The goal is also a healthy skepticism that asks, “What’s wrong with it? What’s missing? Where are the points of view? Why did this person write this article or post?” said Grant.

“Suddenly the light goes on and then, yes, they’re all over … nobody wants to be fooled, right?”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on December 11, 2020.

This story was produced with financial support from Facebook and the Canadian Press News Fellowship.

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