California commits to teaching 'media literacy' in public classrooms

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Beginning next year, California's public school students will be required to take media literacy courses that will help them identify fake news posted online while also being able to tell the difference between legitimate news articles and paid advertising.

The new instruction will slowly be integrated into the curriculum of students from kindergarten through high school under Assembly Bill 873, authored by Assemblymember Marc Berman (D-Menlo Park) and signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom in October. Media literacy content will be included in English language arts, mathematics, science, history and social science curriculums.

The law was necessitated by young people's growing reliance on the internet and social media platforms, such as TikTok, Instagram and X, for news and information, Berman said. Texas, New Jersey and Delaware have also passed strong media literacy laws, according to Media Literacy Now, a nonprofit research organization

“Teaching media literacy is a key strategy to support our children, their families, and our society that are inundated with misinformation and disinformation on social media networks and digital platforms,” said Berman. “We have a responsibility to teach the next generation to be more critical consumers of online content and more guarded against misinformation, propaganda, and conspiracy theories."

State leaders have a “strong interest,” the new legislation says, in ensuring young Californians are equipped to properly confront the misinformation found on digital platforms, as the reach and influence of these platforms are only expected to increase in the future.

"As we've seen too often in the last decade, what happens online can have the most terrifying of real-world impacts,” Berman said. “From climate denial to vaccine conspiracy theories to the Jan. 6 attack on our nation’s Capitol, the spread of online misinformation has had global and deadly consequences.”

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.