The U.S. state of New Jersey has passed a law to require all school students to learn about media literacy.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy says it’s the first law of its kind in the U.S. and will give students “the tools necessary to identify fact from fiction”.
The state’s Department of Education will now consult experts to develop new media literacy standards to guide implementation.
What will be included?
Mandatory media literacy education will apply from kindergarten through to Year 12.
It will include learning about research skills, critical thinking, the difference between primary and secondary sources, the difference between fact and opinion, and a consideration of media ethics and law.
New Jersey State Senator Michael Testa said the laws would help children “to weigh the flood of news, opinion and social media they are exposed to both online and off…
“[It] isn’t about teaching kids that any specific idea is true or false, rather it’s about helping them learn how to research, evaluate and understand the information they are presented for themselves.”
A recent survey by U.S. advocacy organisation Media Literacy Now found only 42% of American adults had been taught how to analyse scientific news for bias and credibility.
62% reported they “had no opportunity in high school to reflect on how media affects their beliefs, feelings, or actions.”
How does Australia compare?
A 2021 survey conducted by the Australian Media Literacy Alliance with the help of university researchers found 30% of Australians had a “low” level of media literacy, with worse results for older Australians.
The authors noted that while Australia’s school curriculum includes media literacy teaching, the quality is “not consistent” and governments have failed to support media literacy education for adults.