Biased and false reports are not new in this booming era of information technology, but the 2016 election definitely created urgency around the issue for more Americans. This urgency is especially great for educators and parents. Throughout the election cycle, my colleagues and I worked hard to respond to the questions of our adolescent and teen students with the right balance of compassion and impartiality. At home, my husband and I struggled to answer our young children's questions as they heard unfamiliar and confusing statements about what the future might hold.
Rather than blaming politicians or media outlets – which does not seem to change what we see or read online – the best approach is to get to the root of the problem: There needs to be a greater focus on teaching our children and teens to be critical, but not jaded, consumers of and contributors to the online world.
In short, we need to redouble our efforts toward improving media literacy.
So, when my ConnectSafely colleague Larry Magid asked me to co-author a guide on this very topic a few months ago, I jumped at the opportunity. Not only am I passionate about it because of my own experiences at home and at school, Larry's career as a journalist and my career as a teacher created what I felt was a "dream team" to tackle it. After months of independent research, expert interviews, a writing retreat on the west coast, editing from our respective homes in weeks that followed, and peer review, the result is the Parent and Educator Guide to Media Literacy and Fake News.
We are proud that this guide:
- is free thanks to crowdfunding from our supporters,
- contains vignettes from renowned media literacy and emotional intelligence experts, and
- is chock full of practical tips that parents can use tonight during dinner table discussions and educators can use today in their classrooms.
Those practical tips can help adults empower the young people in our lives to:
- distinguish fact from opinion
- identify mistakes versus lies
- interpret conflicting reports
- develop emotional intelligence
- act with confidence when faced with falsehoods online