Charlotte Hampton and Isabel Tribe column: To keep democracy strong, we have to teach media literacy | Columnists | #socialmedia | #children


As one attendee said, “I’ve been more thoroughly checking everything I repost on Instagram.” Another told us that the workshops gave her the confidence to discuss propaganda and censorship with local business owners while pasting TPF posters around her community — part of our War on Truth campaign, for which we reimagined classic political posters to illustrate the prevalence and dangers of fake news.

Young leaders like Greta Thunberg are making history. But none of the movements that youth advocates represent — whether it’s, say, climate change, racial justice or gun control — will succeed without a common reality based on facts.

That’s why we believe states and local school districts across the country should mandate media literacy training, with a focus on social media, in every high school government class. Only by teaching students how to assess information skeptically, verify sources, and differentiate between news and opinion can we have the vigorous public discourse that democracy requires.

The News Literacy Project, a nonprofit organization, has been providing educators with curricula along these lines since 2020; every high school needs such a program now. As we have found in our workshops, even informal conversations about how we use social media can change behavior.

When millions of us step up to the ballot box in 2022, TikTok shouldn’t be telling us how to vote. Countering the pervasive and profitable ecosystem of fake news online starts with educational policy, moves through peer-to-peer conversations and ends in high school classrooms.

Charlotte Hampton and Isabel Tribe are seniors at the High School of American Studies at Lehman College in New York City and co-founders of Teens for Press Freedom.

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