Media literacy needed for connection

To give youth their best shot at rising to their potential, we need to teach them how to communicate, providing them with hope and resilience.

by

Rosemary Smith is the managing director of the Getting Better Foundation, which builds trust through the support of media literacy education. She produced the award-winning documentary “Trust Me,” which brings awareness to the need for media literacy to foster hope and resilience, lessen polarization, and preserve democracy. It is showing at 5:30 pm on Feb. 22 at the Sheldon Museum of Art, followed by a Q&A.

Smith will also testify on Feb. 20 in support of LB1371, which would require media literacy education at every grade of K-12 education in Nebraska. Submit comments in support of the bill before 8 am on Feb. 20.

Media literacy empowers students – and people in general – with the skills to think critically and for themselves. It teaches them how to consume and evaluate information, ask critical questions, avoid online manipulation, and navigate within our complex and ever-changing media landscape.

Additionally, media literacy instructs people how to construct accurate media – themselves becoming citizen journalists. U.S. Department of Homeland Security calls this becoming “upstanders” instead of “bystanders.” To be “response-able” instead of reactive members of society. It means using media for peacemaking, not manipulation, conflict, and war.

Media Literacy Now, a leading research organization dedicated to helping states establish media literacy and civics standards, defines media and information literacy as the ability to:

  • decode media messages (including the systems in which they exist),
  • assess the influence of those messages on thoughts, feelings, and behaviors; and
  • create media thoughtfully and conscientiously.

Youth are particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of media consumption. As nearly one-fifth of teens report a “near-constant” use of social media like YouTube, their anxiety, depression, substance abuse and suicidology have also increased. Youth who spend more than three hours a day online now face twice the risk of mental health problems, including depression and anxiety.

It’s time to raise our standards and those of our children. To give youth their best shot at rising to their potential, we need to teach them how to communicate, providing them with hope and resilience. Media Literacy education for every student, in rural as well as urban schools, is one of the best solutions to these deep dilemmas.

These days, trust is the highest currency. The level of trust we win or lose is proportionate to the quality of our communication. When people are empowered with media, good information, and digital literacies, they learn to trust one another more. Connection happens. It’s not easy to hurt one another when we know another person. Differences are set aside to work together on solving the bigger problems our world is facing. People rise to become the best version of themselves, inspiring others to follow toward peaceful resolution and collaboration.

Communication is about creating clarity where there’s confusion. It’s about creating relevance when people feel disconnected. Most importantly, it’s about inspiring people to achieve things they never thought possible. That’s hope. That’s what media literacy does.

Please join me in supporting Sen. Tony Vargas’ LB1371, which would require media literacy education at every grade of K-12 education in Nebraska. Submit public comment in support of the bill before the 8 am Feb. 20 deadline.

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Locations

After School Programs

  • Sherman Elementary School

    5618 N 14th Ave.
    Omaha, NE 68110

  • Lewis and Clark Middle School

    6901 Burt St.
    Omaha, NE 68132

  • Lothrop Magnet Elementary

    3300 N. 22nd St.
    Omaha, NE 68110

  • Campbell Elementary School

    2200 Dodge St.
    Lincoln, NE 68521

  • Lincoln High School

    2229 J St.
    Lincoln, NE 68510

  • Lincoln Northeast High School

    2635 N. 63rd St.
    Lincoln, NE 68507