Jewish Affairs Caucus of the National Education Association

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From the Southern Poverty Law Center

 Truth or Fiction: Teaching digital literacy to children is vital to combatting online disinformation

The SPLC | Read the full piece here

We didn’t need the Capitol insurrection of Jan. 6 to know our society is awash in disinformation. But the attack by far-right extremists reacting to former President Donald Trump’s false claims about a “stolen” election certainly provided a wake-up call about the dangers of such falsehoods.

Our democracy itself depends on a shared trust and belief in the facts. But the internet and the proliferation of media sources with dubious credibility have changed everything. Now, extremist propaganda and conspiracy theories like QAnon spread with the click of a mouse.

“Everywhere we look around the world, disinformation is a threat to society,” says Kristin Lord, president and CEO of IREX, a global development and education organization. “No matter what issue you look at, whether it’s violence and racism in the United States, polarization, health issues like the pandemic or the health of democracy – you can just go down a list and disinformation makes every public policy challenge harder.”

But what can be done about it?

Cory Collins, a senior writer for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Learning for Justice project, explores efforts to implement digital literacy education in the Fall issue of Learning for Justice magazine.

Collins’ story, “Reimagining Digital Literacy Education to Save Ourselves,” examines the way in which experts are advising educators about understanding the roots of online misinformation and how to counter it.

“There are steps, big and small, that educators can be taking,” says Erin McNeill, founder of Media Literacy Now, a grassroots nonprofit advocating for policies that would make media literacy “an essential element in public education.”

One of the first steps is persuading school officials about the importance of incorporating digital literacy into the curricula. McNeill says parents and educators can make a big difference. If they learn more about media literacy and related resources, they can advocate for it to district leaders and school boards.

“We’re trying to get more of a grassroots army of people who understand what media literacy is, recognize its value and are asking for it,” McNeill says.




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