Media literacy

Media literacy: a critical need that should be taught in schools


“…to stop misinformation, social media platforms, journalists, fact checkers and citizens must all take action”

Should media education be taught in schools?

This is the question of an article from the Lowy Institute’s The interpreter request. He asks the question because media literacy is key to navigating online media, where many people get their news and which influences what children believe.


“…the UK Commission on Fake News and Teaching Critical Literacy Skills found that only 2% of children have the critical literacy skills they need to tell whether news is true or false,” reports the Interpreter article.

The report states that media literacy is a form of critical thinking. Now more than ever, critical thinking is a crucial skill needed not only by children but also by the general public. One need only look to social media to see how unjudgmental people can be when they mindlessly republish reports without knowing their origins or the motives of those producing them.

The role of Russian fake news in US elections has clearly demonstrated how governments use manipulative psychological tactics to interfere in the internal affairs of countries. More innocent but also potentially damaging is the inadvertent spread of fake news and misinformation by well-meaning people who fail to check whether what they repost on social media is likely to be true.

The coronavirus contagion is an example of how misinformation quickly spreads online. the Eater reported that:

“The social media team at the Austin-based vodka maker — which is America’s top-selling spirit — is working overtime on Twitter today, forced to repeatedly explain that its product is do not a suitable substitute for hand sanitizer – it just smells like that. Confusion arises amid a shortage of hand sanitizer as worried members of the public try to protect themselves from the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Identity politics, vector of disinformation

The interpreter The article also alluded to how identity politics is a gateway to misinformation and misunderstanding. “…disinformation taps into various psychological domains, such as social identity theory and feelings of group belonging or social isolation.”

Engaging in identity politics by indiscriminately adopting the values, attitudes, and beliefs of a particular group can lead to hostility and rejection of information that contradicts group assumptions and attitudes. Only information acceptable to the group is propagated within its ranks. This “echo chamber effect” spreads fake news within the group even when external evidence suggests otherwise. Familiarity becomes the basis for judging the validity of statements.

How to Appear to Know a Lot When Knowing Only a Little Spreads Misinformation

We see how easy access to information produces people who believe they know a lot about a subject when in fact they know little. This is another gateway to personal vulnerability to fake news when the person broadcasts their limited knowledge, the article says.

The phenomenon has occurred in part because social media manipulators weaken belief in expert opinion to sow the seeds of disbelief and advance their own agendas. We see it when climate change deniers attack scientists even if they have no scientific qualifications. The result is a pervasive anti-expert attitude in which fake news and misinformation spread like a contagion.

A vaccine against manipulation

Under these circumstances, the article’s idea of ​​teaching media literacy in schools makes sense. It could be a vaccine against manipulation and, also, vaccinate children against publicity.

Some countries are now taking the initiative to educate children. Faktabaari teaches media literacy and fact-checking in schools in Finland. The UK may soon have its own program.

Our role as citizen journalism

As media workers, we citizen journalists can play a role in discrediting fake news and manipulating the media by exposing it in our work. Fact-checking websites like Snopes and others are helpful, as is researching the backstory of stories.

You might find a new UNESCO publication useful: Fake News and Disinformation: A Handbook for Journalism Education and Training. The publication’s existence highlights how fake news and the spread of misinformation and lies affect public beliefs and attitudes.

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