Media Literacy

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Turning Your Kids Into Web Detectives

While kids are great at signing up for and using social media, chances are they are not very good at evaluating and vetting the news and other information that appears in their online feed. So what are some fact-checking resources your kids (and you!) can use to verify or debunk the information they find online? Some of you may have heard of sites like FactCheck.org, PolitiFact.com, and Snopes.com. The first two are mostly interested in truth in politics. Snopes is famous as a site to check out internet rumors. One you may not be familiar with is OpenSecrets.org, a nonpartisan organization that tracks the influence of money in U.S. politics and is probably aimed more at older students and adults. The last isn’t a site that performs the fact checking, but instead is a tool that lets you fact-check things you find online. The internet “Archive Way back Machine” lets you see how a website looked and what it said, at different points in the past. That can be very valuable to see how, for example, the US government treated different topics under different administrations or at different times under the same administration. Want to see The New York Times’ home page, on just about any day since 1996? It’s there as well as Google’s homepage from 1998. The site can be a little distracting though, so make sure kids know what they are looking for specifically before they dive in.

“Fake News” – Advice on How to Combat It From a Media Literacy Expert

The term "fake news" has highlighted media literacy "in a way that nothing has before," asserts Michelle Ciulla Lipkin of the National Association for Media Literacy Education. A new survey also shows that nearly everyone is guilty of sharing fake news at one time or another. In a Q&A on the PBS Newshour site, Lipkin fields questions on the topic and offers advice for teachers and parents to help keep themselves from falling victim to fake news stories. Ciulla Lipkin’s first bit of advice? Stop lumping all dubious content into one category called fake news and instead help kids understand the role of bias in the media. 

Digital Citizenship 101

A recent EdTech article titled 3 Basic Digital Citizenship Standards All Educators Should Know and Teach, is a great read for both educators and parents. The article reminds adults that children look to them for media literacy tips, which is especially important in today’s news climate, with information posing as reliable not always being accurate. Parents and other significant adults also need to remind young people of the consequences of their digital actions and that a key part of digital etiquette is the understanding of copyright laws and plagiarism. In addition, both parents and students need to also understand the regulations that schools must follow to protect student data and privacy.

People Who Only Watch and Listen

As we confront the idea of misinformation creeping into our lives, especially from digital sources, many argue that we need redefine literacy for the digital age. Are we going to become people who “only watch and listen – a characteristic reminiscent of medieval times?” The idea that a source is only valid if written or printed is disappearing, and many people feel that seeing or hearing something gives it uncontestable value. A great example of this is the use of mobile devices to capture instances to share with the world rather than putting it in words or giving context to a visual. This is also creating a generation gap between kids and parents and students and teachers.

As Ruth Reynard puts it in her article entitled Redefining Literacy in the Digital AgeWhat is becoming clear is that increasing numbers of students do not have the skills required to understand conventional information sources and media, and older generations of people do not understand newer informational environments or exchanges. So, when folks are encouraged to "read" websites, that is not happening by individuals on either side of that gap.”

Be a Mentor for Digital Citizenship

Parents and teachers are no doubt working hard to educate children about safe practices with technology, but being a good digital citizen is often more about following the behavior modeled by the adults around you. How can parents be good digital mentors? Devorah Heitner, digital citizenship expert, lays out a set of principles in what she calls the Mentorship Manifesto.

 

Here’s a condensed version:

  • Mentors start from a place of empathy as a path to trust and open communication.

  • Mentors understand that social interactions are more complex now, and that kids need help in building good personal relationships.

  • Mentors recognize that tech savvy is not the same as wisdom. Life experience is a critical factor in the equation.

  • Mentors believe in collaboration over control. Co-creating solutions with kids takes advantage of their creativity and builds trust.

  • Mentors are ready to be accountable. Recognizing and correcting bad technology habits serves as a model for kids.