- California recently became the latest state to require media literacy instruction at every grade level with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signing of Assembly Bill 873 in October.
- The law will require the state’s Instructional Quality Commission to slowly roll out a curriculum framework on the topic after Jan. 1, 2024, while considering how to incorporate media literacy content into English language arts, math, science, history and social science lessons.
- The frameworks will guide media literacy instruction and should help build critical thinking skills while “developing strategies to strengthen digital citizenship” for each student, according to the law.
Only three other states have enacted media literacy instruction requirements for all students in kindergarten through 12th grade — Delaware, New Jersey and Texas, according to a February report from Media Literacy Now, a nonprofit advocating for media literacy in public education.
The slow crawl of states passing media literacy requirements is occurring ahead of a contentious presidential election, which is less than a year away.
New Jersey kicked off the trend when Gov. Phil Murphy signed the nation’s first statewide information literacy requirements for schools in January 2023. Upon signing the law, Murphy noted in a statement that the need for this curriculum instruction comes at a time when “democracy remains under sustained attack through the proliferation of disinformation.”
In California, Assemblymember Marc Berman, who authored the law requiring statewide K-12 media literacy instruction, said in an October statement that the law comes as students grow increasingly reliant on the internet and social media as their sources for news. He also echoed Murphy’s concerns of persistent online misinformation.
“Teaching media literacy is a key strategy to support our children, their families, and our society that are inundated with misinformation and disinformation on social media networks and digital platforms,” Berman said. “From climate denial to vaccine conspiracy theories to the January 6 attack on our nation’s Capital, the spread of online misinformation has had global and deadly consequences.”
Research shows there may be good reason for concern surrounding students’ ability to navigate the wave of online misinformation.
A 2021 Stanford University study found less than one-tenth of 1% of high school students in 2019 could identify the true source of a video alleging voter fraud in an American election, which was actually filmed in Russia. However, according to a separate Stanford study published in April 2022, high school students who attended six 50-minute lessons in digital literacy were twice as likely to spot questionable websites.