Studies show that a lack of media literacy among students has a negative impact
Looking at assistant professor of communications Kevin John’s desk, it’s clear that he’s a big consumer of media. There are Star Wars props all over his office, among other things. But John is not your average media consumer. He has made it his goal to be a critical thinker when it comes to any type of media and he tries to teach his students to do the same.
Recent studies have shown that college students struggle to think critically about media and judge their credibility, especially online.
A study published last year by the Stanford Graduate School of Education testing the media literacy of middle school, high school and university students suggested that most young people lack a clear understanding of what constitutes “fake news” versus real news.
More than 7,800 students from all academic levels tested received social media updates, news articles and feedback. The study found the following:
- 82% of middle school students couldn’t tell the difference between sponsored articles and real news stories.
- Most high school students didn’t bother to check where the photos came from online and blindly accepted the stated contexts of the photos.
- Many high school students couldn’t tell the difference between a real news article and a fake news article on social media. In fact, in one particular example, more than 30% of high school students tested believed that a post claiming to be from Fox News was more trustworthy than one from Fox News.
- Of Stanford University students who were tested, more than 80% could not identify biased content from independent news sources backed by groups such as lobbying firms as less reliable than a source of general public information.
John, who teaches a class called Media Effects, tries to instill in his students a sense of critical thinking when looking at any type of media.
“When it comes to my class, I want them to know from the start that it’s okay to question any type of communication,” John said.
John gave an example of a hypothetical situation that he uses in his class to illustrate media bias. In the example, two news stations are both covering a snowstorm, but one focuses on dangerous road conditions and the other on children playing in the snow.
“With a news story, they tell you what they think are the important details, but what’s important may depend on the opinions of the news director that day or the significance of the people involved,” John said. . “All of these things that come together to determine media interest. There’s room for opinion and there’s room for bias because whenever we’re dealing with human beings, we have dealing with prejudices.
John also uses this example to emphasize the importance of media literacy.
“A media-savvy person would recognize that (every story) is one area at a time, but there’s more going on,” John said. “And so, media literacy requires a certain level of activity on the part of the viewer.”
Sara Van Tuyl, a history education major, intern at Timpview High School teaches United States history to juniors. As part of his teaching, Van Tuyl makes it a point to educate his students on how to evaluate historical sources and sources of information.
“When we do these activities, we make sure that when they consult modern sources, they are obliged to corroborate them,” Van Tuyl said.
After the Stanford study was published, the Stanford History Education Group published a website with tools teachers can use to teach young students about media literacy and civic reasoning. Van Tuyl uses some of these tools to teach his high school students.
“I think a lot of the tools from Stanford University that they give us are very useful because some of the things they offer are specifically designed for historical thinking, and historical thinking skills are also necessary for historical thinking. critical thinking about modern news and events”, Van says Tuil.
By teaching how to evaluate historical and modern sources of information, Van Tuyl hopes to help students learn to make informed decisions.
“My goal is that by the time I leave this class, my students are able to look at sources of information and whether they agree with them or not, they are able to recognize how to verify the source,” said said Van Tuyl. it is important that they learn things as they go, because in a few years they will be able to vote.
According to a spring 2017 Nieman Reports article titled “Can News Literacy Be Taught?”, another group in Bethesda, Maryland called the News Literacy Project works to improve media literacy. The group, led by former Los Angeles Times reporter Alan Miller, is also creating tools for educators to teach students about media literacy. Additionally, they are working on producing public service announcements on fake news and news literacy.
Kris Boyle, an assistant professor of news media at BYU, thinks social media has had good and bad impacts on news access and evaluation. On the one hand, social media has made news more accessible to people, but on the other hand, the increase in the volume of news in social media has made it a bit more difficult to assess.
“There are individuals who take at face value what they see on social media as real news,” Boyle said.
As a college professor, Boyle feels it’s his role to educate his students on how to be good journalists who use reliable sources in their stories. In doing so, they can help other Americans learn about the media and gain their trust.
“That’s kind of why I really immerse myself in what I do at BYU,” Boyle said. “Because students here at BYU receive the kind of training that makes them good, solid journalists, truth seekers, and broadcasters who can deliver truth and accuracy in terms of what they share.”