HICKSVILLE, NY — A group of educators want all New York State public school students to receive a formal education in an area they believe is highly overlooked and crucial in children’s lives: media literacy . A group called Media Literacy Now is pushing for statewide legislation that will introduce formal education, resources, and professional development for media literacy teachers.
Jaclyn Kahn Siegel is a Hicksville resident who serves as the New York section leader for the group and she tells Patch that she sees this need firsthand as a history and special education teacher.
“The amount of media and technology that children deal with every day is insane.”
The educators behind Media Literacy Now believe that teaching literacy in schools in 2021 goes hand in hand with teaching media literacy.
“Our children live in a 24/7 world of powerful media. There has been a drastic increase in the time children and young people spend with the media over the past decade. Eight to 18-year-olds now spend an average of seven hours and 38 minutes a day with entertainment media outside of school, according to a recent study.”
“Used well, the media can entertain and inform our children in positive ways. However, because most children are not taught to use the media thoughtfully, many media messages contribute to public health issues such as obesity, bullying and aggression, low self-esteem, depression, negative body image, risky sexual behaviors and substance abuse, among other issues.”
“Media literacy education – which teaches students to apply critical thinking to media messages and to use media to create their own messages – is a key skill of the 21st century. Media literacy is also essential to the health and well-being of America’s children as to their future participation in the civic and economic life of our democracy.”
Siegel became interested in this question when she wrote her thesis on how television can help children learn to read. She says that in 2009, few people were interested in the issue of media literacy, but after the recent rise of the concept of “fake news” in the last two election cycles and the rise of fake news during the pandemic, more and more people are becoming aware of the need for media literacy.
“It’s so pervasive in our children’s lives. Children are advertised,” she said.
The bills call for statewide standards for media education, the creation of a media advisory group to guide public schools, a media library specialist in each district, and professional development teachers. Ultimately, Kahn would like to see a comprehensive elective for high school students on media literacy.
“It’s a first step for New York,” she said. Several states have legislation in place guiding media literacy in public schools, but New York currently has none.
The bills — the latest is sponsored by Manhattan Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal in New York and was referred to the education committee in January — were carefully crafted to be nonpartisan, Kahn said. .
What do you think? Do children need formal education on how to master the media at school? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.