Media literacy education is California’s newest tactic to fight misinformation in schools and online.

To fight the rising tide of misinformation flooding the internet, California has passed a law mandating media literacy education for all K-12 students. Governor Gavin Newsom recently signed Assembly Bill 873, making it compulsory for students to study in media literacy, including identifying fake news and thinking critically about online content.

Starting next year, media literacy will be integrated into existing classes across most subjects, rather than being a standalone subject. This is to equip students with the essential skills to navigate today’s digital landscape and counter the impact of misinformation on real-world events, such as elections.

Assemblymember Marc Berman, the bill’s sponsor, emphasized the importance of ensuring people have the skills to discern information online and from other sources. The law comes at a time when public trust in media is dwindling, especially among the youth.

The new education tactic intends to address this issue by teaching students how to identify reliable news sources and understand the critical role of media in a democracy. The new law, which received nearly unanimous support in the Legislature, aligns with similar initiatives in more than a dozen other states.

While California’s law isn’t perfect, lacking certain features like funding for teacher training, advisory committees, librarian input, and a monitoring mechanism, its simplicity was aimed at ensuring swift passage. The law will take effect on January 1, 2024, coinciding with the state’s curriculum framework update, although teachers are encouraged to start incorporating media literacy education immediately.

The move builds on a 2018 effort in California to provide media literacy resources to K-12 teachers but adds the mandatory aspect to ensure comprehensive coverage. This intersects with the state’s broader goal of expanding computer science education, possibly making it a requirement for high school graduation. Despite the challenges, teachers are already incorporating media literacy into lesson plans to enhance students’ critical thinking skills and empower them to be smart media consumers.