KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A proposed bill in Jefferson City could one day impact what children learn in the classroom.
The legislation would integrate media literacy training into the public school curriculum.
“I’ve decided that this state needs to prepare our children, give them a foundation to evaluate and process the information they get from so many different sources,” Rep. Jim Murphy (R-St. Louis) said.
Murphy got the idea from a voter who is a professor with a Ph.D. in media literacy.
His bill would create a 14-member commission made up of lawmakers, educators, a journalism professor and experts in media literacy, mental health and technology.
The group would conduct a study on the teaching of media literacy in Missouri public schools. Then, based on the commission’s report, the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education would create a plan to teach children these skills from kindergarten through senior year.
“When you see something, what are they trying to get you to do? How are they trying to influence you, and is it factual? We can teach that…and I’m really glad we have the opportunity to do so,” Murphy said.
Studies have shown that providing people with digital literacy training can aid in discernment and slow the spread of misinformation.
Earlier this month, 41 Action News spoke with Jacob Montgomery, associate professor of political science at Washington University in St. Louis.
He is one of the authors of a recent study examining a media literacy intervention carried out by Facebook in 2017.
At the top of the news feeds, the company posted a link for “Tips for spotting fake news,” such as being skeptical of shocking headlines and investigating the source.
Montgomery and his fellow researchers showed the tips to study participants and then asked them to rate the accuracy of several titles. Compared to participants who did not see the tips, those who saw them were better at identifying false stories.
“What the study showed is that giving people rules and guidance to help them navigate the world of social media, where we constantly have to judge whether this message is true or whether this message is false, can help people do this job better,” Montgomery said.
Back in Jefferson City, Murphy believes there is enough support to pass his legislation.
“We certainly hope that our children will learn a little better to live in this wired world,” he said.
The Media Literacy Bill was read twice in the House. A public hearing would be the next step, but none have yet been set.