Schools and lawmakers ramp up media literacy education

Schools in the United States prioritise media literacy in response to concerns about the dangers of AI and fake news.

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As concerns grow over the proliferation of AI-generated disinformation, schools and lawmakers are doubling down on media literacy education. The push, already underway in 18 states, aims to equip students with the skills to discern fake news, which is particularly crucial as the 2024 presidential election looms. Beyond politics, the harmful effects of social media on children, including cyberbullying and online radicalisation, underscore the urgency of these efforts.

States like Delaware and New Jersey have set the bar high, mandating comprehensive media literacy standards for K-12 classrooms. These standards promote digital citizenship and empower students to navigate media safely. Yet, disparities exist among states, with some, like Illinois, implementing more muted forms of media literacy education, focusing primarily on high school instruction.

In response to the lack of federal guidelines, bipartisan efforts in Congress, such as the AI Literacy Act, seek to address the gap. Introduced by Rep. Lisa Blunt-Rochester and Rep. Larry Bucshon, the bill aims to integrate AI literacy into existing education programs, emphasising its importance for national competitiveness. However, progress on the bill has stalled since its introduction, leaving the federal approach to media literacy uncertain.

Despite variations in implementation, students across states are embracing media literacy education positively. For educators like Lisa Manganello in New Jersey, the focus is on fostering critical thinking and information literacy, irrespective of political affiliations. As misinformation continues to increase online, the need for media literacy education at the state and federal levels remains paramount to empower students as responsible digital citizens.