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States Increase Focus on Critical Media Literacy Skills


Alexandria, VA—Smartphone and screen media usage among adolescents accelerated during the pandemic, increasing concerns about media exposure’s harms to their physical, mental, and social well-being. More states are taking action to ensure students can analyze and navigate the complex media landscape. According to a new NASBE analysis, 19 states have enacted laws on education to advance media literacy—the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, create, and act using all forms of communication. At least four states have set media literacy education standards.

State boards of education can advance standards and instruction that strengthen students’ media awareness and promote healthy, safe, responsible use by considering six questions:

  • What benefits are associated with students’ media literacy? Media literacy improves students’ understanding of media, supports self-awareness and emotional regulation, builds resiliency, and fosters digital stewardship.
  • How does media literacy prepare students to be civically engaged? Civic engagement demands an ability to differentiate fact from opinion and detect false information—a skill further complicated by the growing use of generative artificial intelligence in content development. Media literacy programs equip students with skills to accurately interpret information, fostering responsible media production and increasing the likelihood of their civic participation.
  • How is my state encouraging K-12 instruction in media literacy? Media literacy is an interdisciplinary subject, and state laws vary significantly on how to address it. New Jersey, Delaware, Florida, and California, for example, require K-12 media literacy standards; others may require media literacy instruction by tying it to graduation requirements or requiring classroom instruction in all K-12 classrooms.
  • How are our teachers equipped to provide instruction? Survey results show that many educators are self-taught in media literacy and often resort to creating their own instructional materials. The lack of readily available high-quality curricula aligned with state standards and ongoing professional development is a barrier to equitable access to media literacy education.
  • Are there best-practice standards for my state to review? There is no comprehensive, national media literacy education framework, leaving states to piece together standards from different industry sources. Delaware’s newly adopted media literacy standards, for example, merge standards from national and state organizations and reference international guidelines. Others integrate media literacy into content areas like social studies (District of Columbia), health (Massachusetts), and computer science (Nebraska).
  • How can we engage students and families on media literacy? Students and families have expressed concern about the impact of technology and social media on students’ lives. State education leaders should directly engage with youth and families as they develop guidance.

“Every generation confronts new media and technology, and every generation must be protected from new potential harms and equipped to reap potential benefits. While technology may change, the skills students can develop through media literacy are durable,” writes NASBE’s Celina Pierrottet. “State policymakers should ensure that students can assess and evaluate media messages, protect themselves from harm, and embody ethical principles for creating their own content.”

Read “Six Questions to Advance Media Literacy and Digital Citizenship.”

NASBE serves as the only membership organization for state boards of education. A nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, NASBE elevates state board members’ voices in national and state policymaking, facilitates the exchange of informed ideas, and supports members in advancing equity and excellence in public education for students of all races, genders, and circumstances. Learn more at www.nasbe.org.

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