In an effort to combat misinformation and disinformation, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) has reintroduced a bill designed to help students learn the important skills needed to participate in the digital media environment of today. The bill was blocked in a previous session of Congress, but media literacy advocates are hoping for a better outcome this time around.
The Digital Citizenship and Media Literacy Act aims to provide $20 million in federal funding over four years to support K-12 media literacy education.
The bill has bicameral support and is also endorsed by media literacy advocates. Erin McNeill is president of the nonprofit Media Literacy Now.
“The bill provides funding, grants that states can use to support media literacy in any way the state needs it,” McNeill said.
McNeill said 16 states, including California, have already taken some form of legislative action for this education. This bill, she said, would increase opportunities for teacher training and resources in all states.
“If Congress votes in favor of this bill, it shows that, yes, we take this seriously as a way to prepare our young people for citizenship in a democracy. It’s also very important for our national security, and it’s important for public health,” she said.
McNeill said skills to access and analyze media content are necessary for K-12 students to detect misinformation and thrive in today’s digital environment.
“Media literacy is the ability to decode messages in all their forms and then also understand media systems, in other words, to understand why this message appeared in front of me at this particular time,” said McNeill.
She said learning to create media thoughtfully and conscientiously is also an important part of media education.
If passed, the proposed legislation will fund grants for state and local educational agencies, nonprofits and public libraries to create digital citizenship and media literacy programs.
The Digital Citizenship and Media Literacy Act is co-authored by Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Representative Elissa Slotkin (D-MI). Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) is one of the co-sponsors.