Media Literacy: A Moral Imperative (...and a guide to support your work!)


I'll admit, some days I sit back and watch in amazement and find myself imitating the eye rolling Emoji.

"All Facebook Posts will be Made Public.""Share this link and get a $50 Lowe's Mother's Day Coupon.""[Politician's Name] Investigator Found Murdered in D.C. Suburb.""Disney is giving away...Share this post to be entered to win." (HA-HA! This makes me laugh out loud every time.)"See your top ten Facebook Stalkers!""You'll never believe what [insert celebrity name] was just caught doing!"

2016. Wow. What a year.I'm guessing most Americans would agree that we haven't seen much like what has happened over the past year and a half, regardless of what side of the political aisle one falls. At least I haven't in my lifetime.For example, throughout 2016 and into the first part of 2017... I've watched those I was connected to on social media who align politically to the right blindly share anti-Hillary memes, articles, stories, etc. I've watched those I was connected to on social media who align politically to the left blindly share anti-Trump memes, articles, stories, etc.Were some memes, articles, stories, etc., shared by both sides accurate? I'm sure there were. Were some memes, articles, stories, etc., shared by both sides completely false? No doubt there were.A recent Pew study found that nearly a quarter of adults admit to having shared fake news in the past and most didn’t know the information was fake when they shared it. However, I'd predict that those actual percentages are FAR higher, with many people having little to no idea that the information they are sharing is partially, or even completely false. Another study, this one by the Stanford Graduate School of Education, found that more than 80% of middle and high school students surveyed were unable to distinguish between advertisements and real news stories. The percentage for adults isn't much better, where only 39% of American adults feel "very confident" that they can recognize news that is made up.Houston, we have a problem.It's natural to believe an article that one agrees with, regardless if it's factual or not, as it aligns with that person's thinking - one's mindset. I also think that sometimes people want to believe something is true, to make another someone or something look good or those of an opposing viewpoint - look bad. This is not a red or blue issue. It's an American issue. As educators, we must play a role in training our students, and supporting their families, in helping them understand how to critically analyze and decipher information that comes their way. We must help those that we are connected to develop and refine their media literacy skills.The issue of "fake news" is not new. The notion of "Don't believe everything you read on the internet," has been around since its use became commonplace. As such, educators have been discussing the need for "digital citizenship" for well over twenty years. However, through the rapid growth of social media tools and use, and thus the ability for things to go viral within a few hours, the need for media literacy has dramatically accelerated.Some of the issues related to fake news stem from one's mindset - the willingness to share information that is not accurate and quite often, not even care that they are doing so in the process. However, there are others that have significant financial gain due to fake news.According to a November 2016 Washington Post article, "This is how Facebook's fake-news-writers make money,"

"How much money can you bring in by making stuff up and putting it on the Internet? “I make like $10,000 a month from AdSense,” Paul Horner, a prolific, Facebook-focused fake-news writer told us this week. And among a growing group of Macedonian teenagers who see fake-news sites as a way to make easy money from American gullibility, the most successful can make about $5,000 a month, BuzzFeed reported."

Fortunately, sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google have ramped up efforts to slow fake news sharing in recent months. However, that alone will not solve this critical issue. So where do we even begin?

First, we need to amplify and share resources that attack the issue. In schools, librarians have been a key to this work for decades. School leaders must leverage their voice, talents, and their work in this vital area. In addition, there are a variety of great resources that can be used to educate those around us. For example, take a moment to watch this brief video for tips on spotting fake news:

Second, just this morning, the Parent and Educator Guide to Media Literacy & Fake News, cowritten by Connect Safely's Larry Magid and my good friend Kerry Gallagher, was released. This dynamic resource will undoubtedly support both educators and parents in the journey forward - a journey where we must face these issues and tackle them head on. It is our moral obligation to do so.From today's media release:"The Parent and Educator Guide, written by ConnectSafely CEO and tech journalist Larry Magid and ConnectSafely K-12 Education Director Kerry Gallagher, will help children and students become more conscious consumers of information, explaining among other things:- The difference between fact and opinion in the news- The difference between mistakes and lies- How to deal with conflicting reports- How to teach kids what to do when they see falsehoods shared onlineThe guide also includes “expert tips” from the National Association for Media Literacy Education and the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence."- -Loaded with thought provoking content, digital citizenship and media literacy resources, as well as practical tips, this guide is a must-read. I highly encourage you to share it with educators and parents that you know who could benefit from it.So, how are you developing your own media literacy skills? Who is within your circle of influence, young or old, that you can help improve their media literacy skills? What are you going to do about it? (I encourage you to share your resources in the comments section below.)Together - we can do this. Let's go!All for the kids we serve,