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Media literacy bill aims to make Delaware students better digital citizens

Students at the Pilot School listen to the presentation
Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media

Lawmakers passed a bill requiring Black history education last year. Now a similar bill aims to do the same for media literacy.

Misinformation and lies spread through social media and the rest of the internet have increasingly become an issue around the country — especially when that misinformation seeks to disrupt the democratic process.

State Sen. Sarah McBride (D-Claymont) is offering a proposal designed to better prepare Delaware children for a digital world. It passed the State Senate last week.

McBride says her legislation addresses concerns that Delaware’s children aren’t being prepared for an increasingly digital world.

“While our image of young people is often times digital natives who seamlessly navigate the internet with an understanding that eludes many of us,” McBride said. “The reality is, is that studies show that young people, just as much as adults, struggle as being discerning consumers of information online.”

McBride points to a 2019 study from Stanford University, which shows 96 percent of high school students lacked basic skills to discern the reliability of news sources online.

The bill seeks to create media literacy standards for Delaware schools, similar to the Black History curriculum bill signed last year.

State Sen. Laura Sturgeon (D-Hockessin) was a teacher for 25 years, and worked with McBride on laying out what the standards should cover.

“She really put together an incredible bill that covers all the aspects of digital citizenship — from being able to discern misinformation, understanding sources and what’s reliable and also the more personal and social aspects of digital citizenship,” said Sturgeon.

Senate Republicans expressed opposition to the bill, with State Sen. Bryant Richardson (R-Seaford) noting concern over how bias and viewpoints are incorporated into the curriculum.

McBride says the Department won’t be responsible for developing curriculum, rather outlining a broad set of standards that individual schools will use to create their own lesson plans.

The bill passed along party lines, and heads to the House.

Roman Battaglia is a corps member withReport for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

Roman Battaglia grew up in Portland, Ore, and now reports for Delaware Public Media as a Report For America corps member. He focuses on politics, elections and legislation activity at the local, county and state levels.
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