DENVER (CBS4) – The internet has expanded kids’ access to information. Now, two state lawmakers want to help them identify misinformation and disinformation.
From Facebook and Twitter to blogs and apps, the information landscape is vast, and State Rep. Barbara McLachlan says facts can vary widely.
“Whenever somebody starts off a sentence with ‘I read somewhere that this happened,’ you think, ‘Wait a minute.’ I think we all need to be a little distrustful about where people are getting their information,” McLachlan said.
A school teacher-turned-state lawmaker, McLachlan says kids who consume news almost exclusively online are especially vulnerable. A study by Stanford University found 82 percent of middle school students can’t tell the difference between an online ad and a news story.
McLachlan and State Rep. Lisa Cutter are carrying a bill to improve media literacy among kids.
“We don’t want to teach kids what to think,” says Cutter. “We’re not taking a stand that one side is right and another is wrong, or one outlet is good and one outlet is bad. We just want to give them the tools so they can figure it out and understand what makes a credible source, and then they can form their own opinions about that information.”
The bill creates an online bank of media literacy resources in the Colorado Department of Education to help teachers incorporate media literacy in everyday curriculum.
“So it’s not like everybody stops and says ‘Okay, now we’re going to do a unit on media literacy,'” said McLachlan, “It’s every time you do a research paper, every time you’re having a discussion in class and you’re referring to an article or something on TV, that’s where media literacy will be taught.”
Cutter passed a law two years ago to establish a task force to study media literacy. The online bank of resources was compiled based on its recommendations.
Cutter says media literacy has never been more important.
“There are outside entities that are trying to sow distrust in public health, in vaccines. They’ve traced some of that to China, Russia with election meddling. So I absolutely, firmly believe this will lead to a healthier democracy and society,” she said.