Legislation has support from Superintendents, MPA, MBA
As social media continues to grow in popularity and usage, the need for education about responsible internet use becomes more evident.
State Rep. Jim Murphy, R-Oakville, said children today consume more online media in their first 10 years of life than they did in their 70s. raw. To help teach media literacy, Murphy introduced a bill called the Show Me Digital Health Act. The bill would require the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to develop a curriculum that includes at least one teaching unit on responsible use of social media by the 2024-2025 school year.
“Media literacy has become one of the number one issues in this country. We are now in a position where we have to teach our children to process this type of information,” Murphy said. “It’s not about the content they receive, it’s about teaching them how to process it, to verify, to question, to understand what the people sending you media are trying to do.”
Murphy said a catalyst for the bill is the movement of bullying from the schoolyard to the internet. He says the issue was first brought to his attention a few years ago by Julie Smith, a communications professor at Webster University, and experts like Smith could help with the program when the time comes.
“We have children with mental health issues, we have children who commit suicide because they’ve been bullied on the internet,” Murphy said. “If we don’t teach children how to process this information, it will harm their health.”
If the bill were to pass, the construction of the program would be left to education and media experts and DESE. Thirteen other states, including Illinois, have passed similar legislation, so Missouri would have a guide to shape its program.
Murphy said media literacy isn’t necessarily its own class, but teachings could be broken down into core classes like social studies or art. He said it was already a bit like that, but the program hadn’t kept up with social media reach.
Similar bills have been introduced in the past by Murphy. Originally, it asked for a committee to develop the program, but deciding who would sit on the committee caused a stumbling block for the bill. This resulted in the change calling on DESE to develop the curriculum.
According to Murphy, the bill has the support of organizations such as the Missouri Press Association and the Missouri Broadcast Association, as well as administrators such as Lindbergh Superintendent Tony Lake.
Lake said the ability to process information from a digital platform will only become more important over time.
“This skill of being able to interpret information, is it factual, is it real, does it come from a credible source?” said the lake. “The state has a personal finance requirement to teach basic skills…in my opinion, that’s just as important.”
Lake said Lindbergh has been proactive in implementing these processing skills in all relevant classrooms. He agreed with Murphy’s sentiment that it probably wouldn’t be a stand-alone lesson or course because the students wouldn’t retain or practice those skills as effectively. Implementation is underway, and Lindbergh’s Technology Advisory Board is looking at ways to help educate parents on the subject.
The bill was due to be heard by the education committee this week.