Girl Scouts build media literacy with ‘All About Media’
WORCESTER, Mass. – For the past few months, the Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts have been running a program educating girls on social media safety, a skill that leaders say is necessary in the digital age.
“Since more of us are having phones and social media, it’s important to raise awareness about stuff and just learn about it,” said Jane Besse, a seventh-grade Girl Scout in the program. “It’s really important to know that if you want to share a video to someone you have to expect that it could be shared with the world. Anything could be shared, anything could be screenshotted, anything could be forwarded to someone.”
The “All About Media” program focuses on several topics, including the various social media platforms available and how to navigate them safely, as well as learning what the apps don’t initially show you, such as how to tweak privacy settings. They also teach how to recognize ads and fake news online.
Over the course of the four sessions, learning is reinforced through interactive games and activities, including mock profile creation, role-playing and projects.
“I really liked the first session that we did,” Besse said. “That was about fake accounts and who you should trust. It was also about how almost all of social media uses ads and tries to mislead you. We’ve learned about fake social media, fake accounts and how nothing is really real, as well as about ads. We also learned about what’s overstepping and what’s too much on social media, like if someone makes you uncomfortable on social media, when to say stop.”
Girl Scouts who participate in the program earn their Media Journey badge. Though the sessions are run by the Girl Scouts, it is still open to any girl in grades five through eight in Worcester County regardless of whether they are a Girl Scout.
The program is organized by Brandi Maloni, the community partnership specialist for the Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts.
“Shutting down social media in today’s world is something that’s not likely to be feasible, so providing the tools in how to navigate these things in a safer way is what we’ve found to be helpful,” Maloni said.
The program also educates parents on social media use. Parents are briefed ahead of the program to help them better understand the digital world, the platforms their children are using and how to have productive conversations about using social media.
“The parent kickoff is really geared towards helping and supporting the parents because we know that social media can be scary,” Maloni said. “We try and help parents know it’s like helping girls learn how to drive a car.”
While the purpose of “All About Media” is to educate girls on media literacy, another key aspect is fostering leadership in the girls so that they can become better advocates for cybersecurity, as well as learn to support and guide each other.
“What this entire program is about is building girls of courage, confidence and character,” Maloni said. “Girls, particularly in grades five through eight, can struggle to build confidence, and we want to be here to support the girls with how to be leaders.”