Media literacy

Media Literacy is a Necessary Skill for Colorado Students

The use of social media has exploded over the past two decades while traditional media institutions have shrunk. The same social media sites and apps that we use to share photos with our friends and families have also become the primary source of information for just under a fifth of American adults, according to a recent analysis from the Pew Research Center. . But these more outspoken social media sites and reports often lack the solid standards of fact-checking, years of editorial expertise, and layers of filters that characterize traditional media.

Nowadays, anyone can post, share and go viral, and it has become easier and easier to claim to be a credible source of information. This, combined with the loss of institutional quality control, fact checking and accountability of major news outlets as these media shrink in readership and funding, has led to a perfect storm for the rapid and uncontrolled spread of fake news. In this changing media landscape, the burden of evaluating information is shifting from the media to the individual.

Typically, false information comes in two forms: disinformation, which is the inadvertent sharing of false information, and disinformation, which is the deliberate dissemination of false information. Many people, including us, have been spreading misinformation at some point in our lives. Perhaps you shared a family member’s post on Facebook in response to an ongoing event without verifying its source, and it later turned out to be false. It is surprisingly common. In fact, lies are 70% more likely to be retweeted than the truth and will spread to 1,500 people about six times faster than the truth, according to a study by MIT.

Media literacy strives to prevent the spread of disinformation on two different fronts: the sharing and the reading. This is why you, as a sharer, have a responsibility. People trust the information they receive from their friends more than other sources, so you can amplify your impact by using your media literacy skills to organize what you share with your network.

Disinformation – the deliberate dissemination and promotion of false information – is much more sinister, however. Recently, disinformation has been particularly harmful in the areas of electoral security, widely pushing anti-science programs and especially anti-vaccination news. For example, Russia has used Twitter trolls to fuel the anti-vaccination debate in the United States, and China recently stepped up its own efforts to attack the United States-based Covid-19 vaccines. Tackling such disinformation requires that media consumers be equipped with the skills, tools and techniques to defend themselves against this type of targeted disruption.

As we face consecutive and overlapping crises of confidence in our democracy, science, and a public health emergency, it is more important than ever that we as a democracy discuss and debate these issues and their solutions from a base of mutually agreed and verified facts. If, however, we are unable to base our debates and disagreements on a stable basis of truth, then our very democracy is in danger.

Clearly there is a problem, and media literacy is a powerful solution. Media literacy gives us tools and techniques to filter, process and understand the media we receive by helping you understand media context and biases and draw your own conclusions. These are skills that we must develop as individuals in a media ecosystem that does not contain the same guarantees that we previously relied on traditional media to provide.

In 2019, we passed a bill to establish a Media Education Advisory Committee, which was tasked with recommending how to integrate media education into primary and secondary education. This year, our bill to implement these recommendations in the K-12 educational standards will make its way through the legislature. Recent events, such as the 2020 elections and the ongoing public health crisis, have only made the need for media literacy clearer and more urgent. We have a lot of work to do in the coming months to overcome the fallout from the pandemic and our controversial political environment. Debate and disagreement are a healthy part of democracy, but wouldn’t it be great not to discuss facts, but rather to debate solutions?

Lisa Cutter represents House District 25, which covers the foothills and mountain communities of unincorporated Jefferson County. A former public relations consultant, she has long been a champion of media literacy. Barbara McLachlan represents House District 59, which covers six counties in southwestern Colorado. She taught at Durango High School for 20 years and is chair of the House Education Committee.

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