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Digital Respons-Ability

Teaching Media Literacy in a Tech Environment

As educators, we care about making sure our students retain something we are teaching them. We hope that what we’ve shared with them makes an impact, at least sometimes. As parents, we have the same goals.

The last few years have been difficult. There have been so many obstacles for teachers to overcome.

Teaching remotely, not teaching remotely. Teaching a hybrid model. Having to prep multiple lesson plans for each class to address the medium a student is receiving the material. Knowing what could possibly be translated to a virtual lesson, and what can’t.

It’s been tricky for students and teachers.

Students today have grown up with technology, but learning self-regulation with technology is challenging for anyone at any age.

With our increased technology use, and dependence, especially as that was our many social interactions are virtual, we need more media literacy skills. This is a process and takes time, but it’s so important as we interact on different technology mediums in different ways.

Here are some things we know about children and their technology use.

  • Children are using technology at younger ages.
  • Television is the most popular device from ages 0-2.
  • Tablet use jumps from 35% with ages 0-2, to 64% with ages 3-4, to 81% for 3-8 year olds.
  • More than 1/3 of parents with a child under 12 say their child began interacting with a smartphone before age 5.

So, kids are using devices. We know that. What maybe some people knew, but didn’t completely realize is the percentage of kids using devices at younger ages.

Another way kids are using devices, besides television and tablets is voice-activated devices. Devices like Google Home or Amazon’s Alexa are more prevalent than ever before.

What does this mean for our children?

There is more demand for devices for kids younger than ever before, particularly from ages 1 ½ to 8 years old. There are more child-friendly apps, and parental controls to fuel the market.

All this basically means that there are devices in hands earlier and earlier.

How are we encouraging good decision-making online?
Screen time is a passive activity. When children leave screens, they often replace one passive activity with another. Is that our goal?

Some ways you can help guide kids:

  1. Ask questions to help guide decision-making:
    1. Why is that an activity you want to do?
    2. What makes that the best decision?
  2. Ask children advice on what YOU would do online:
    1. How do you think I should find out more information on the subject?
    2. Should I do _____ or _____ online?

How does this relate to Media Literacy?

We are living in a tech world. We need to establish healthy behaviors with technology from the introduction of the first device for children. It’s an ongoing process, but by teaching them skills like self-regulation, they will be better prepared to use the internet responsibly, and more importantly, learn how to discern truth from fiction themselves.

What is Media Literacy?

  1. Understanding HOW the internet works.
  2. Using CRITICAL THINKING skills when interpreting information on the web.

There are a few reasons people share things that are fake. The FOUR major types of FAKE NEWS are:

  1. Satire
  2. Clickbait
  3. Malicious Intent
  4. Propaganda

One of the questions you have to ask yourself when trying to figure out if something is fake or real is “What is the motivation behind the information?”

One thing to keep in mind is the evolution of how we consume information. Initially, there was just word of mouth. Then, people started printing books. From books, we had newspapers and magazines, then we went online. Even news online has morphed form articles and blogs, to tweets, memes, and videos.

What happens when the information we consume is smaller and smaller? When an entire book or article is reduced to a 30 second video?

Obviously, we lose information. We lose context, we focus on what the content creator has decided we should know, but does that mean we are getting a complete picture? It would be impossible to do so.

Social media allows us to share and pass along information instantly, and to be validated by our friends, following, and audience. That doesn’t always equal truth, but a lot of times, people don’t even care. It’s all about the reaction, the emotion, the likes.

Truthfulness does not motivate sharing online. A study published in Nature tracked thousands of users interacting with false information. Only 16% called it accurate. But when asked if they would share the headline, 51% said they would.

Truth is not the motivation behind what people share. It’s emotions. Think about what you chose to share? Did it elicit an emotional response out of you? Was it fear? Anger? Joy? Amusement? Whatever the emotion, generally if you have no response, it’s not something you share.

One way to identify fake news is to ask yourself WHO is sending the message, WHY it was shared, WHAT techniques were used to attract your attention, and HOW the message might be interpreted.

It’s hard for adults to understand Media Literacy, which is why it’s hard for children to understand what is truth and what is fake. One thing to remember is that children cannot process information the same way adults do. Studies have shown that under the age of three struggle to transfer knowledge from a screen to real life. This is called “transfer deficit.” This means that educational apps, games, videos, to teach languages, etc are useless at this age.

When trying to help our children and students understand media literacy, it is important to first start with a foundation of healthy media use, self-regulation, both passive and active screen time, and healthy boundaries. This will create a healthy relationship with technology, including social media, which will create the foundation needed to understand the difference between real and fake news and how to discover accurate information on the internet.

Written by Karina Gathu

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