Will ‘media literacy’ courses help protect school children? A state thinks that way
(NEXSTAR) – A lawmaker’s misunderstanding of a popular social media term went viral earlier this month – it provided fodder for online comedians and sent teenagers to erase their finstas before their parents found out about their “fake” Instagram accounts .
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Ironically, the embarrassing exchange between Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) And Facebook’s security chief took place during a hearing on the potential dangers of social media and uncovered a cross-generational gap on the rapidly changing forms of media that children are exposed to Day.
According to Ashley Hodges, LCSW of the Wellington Counseling Group, it is this separation that allows children to get online with “little to no skills or strategy” to navigate and decipher the information they ingest. Hodges and others, like attorney Maaria Mozaffar, hope that a new media literacy law recently passed in Illinois will help change that reality.
“We are now looking at a situation where students between the ages of 3 and 18 are consuming a lot of information,” said Mozaffar. “And they get information, not from family and friends or typical news agencies, which was true maybe 20, 30 years ago, even 15 or so, right? Now they get information from what they use most, namely the phone or the tablet. “
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Mozaffar drafted the legislation behind the new law requiring all public high schools in Illinois to incorporate a media literacy curriculum by the next school year.
“Media literacy encompasses all media that we consume,” said Mozaffar.
She found that the definition encompasses everything from digital news to television ads to Instagram filters and everything in between.
According to Mozaffar, the curriculum will help students objectively analyze and evaluate media messages at a time when information is “literally available in a second”.
“It’s a new domain that a new generation is learning to use,” she said. “And without guidance, we can have so many different effects that may lead you in the wrong direction. So I believe they need to be given all the tools and resources they can use to make this most effective for them. “
In her clinical work with children, Hodges has seen firsthand the negative impact the media can have on children who do not have the tools and resources they need.
“I believe social media can be harmful to children, especially girls,” she said.
Hodges said she continues to see increases in anxiety, depression, loneliness and even lack of sleep in children who regularly use social media; However, she said that with the right parameters and training, social media can also be a positive experience.
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While Illinois is the first state to require such training, Mozaffar and other proponents want it to go further.
“I think lawmakers are starting to realize that the most important place to change society and the way we consume information is in schools, because that’s where children gather most of the information and meet new people,” said Mozaffar. So I think it’s going to be fascinating. And I hope people across the country will see how important it is for them to learn media literacy. “
Not all Illinois lawmakers are okay with the new curriculum. MP Adam Niemerg has been quoted by multiple media outlets as calling it “anti-Trump, anti-conservative” reactionary legislation and an attempt by the left to “invade our school systems at a young age and teach them the means of the mainstream media.”
Mozaffar said she would not respond to such comments because “I think it politicizes the issue of education and I am not going to perpetuate the issue of education in a political way. I think our kids deserve better. “
She encouraged parents who are concerned about the new curriculum to get involved.
“Look at the curriculum,” she said. “Base your concerns and arguments on facts, participate in the development of the curriculum, talk to the professors or find out who is creating the curriculum and say that you want some space to contribute. “
Hodges added that parents should educate themselves about what media, especially social media, looks like to a teen. She encouraged parents to ask questions like “What do you think about this?” Or “Do you think this is real?”
“Keep an open dialogue,” she said.
According to Hodges, teenagers and parents should know that it’s okay to take a break from the media when needed. She suggested introducing a “screen-free” hour for the entire household. Use the time to find yourself as a family, she said.
To learn more about media literacy, visit medialiteracynow.org.