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It’s Time to Hit the Pause Button: Why We Should Never Stop Caring about Media Literacy

By Lynette Owens

This article originally appeared in the Huffington Post on November 10, 2017.

Last month, the U.S. experienced one of the most horrific acts of violence when a lone gunman took aim at thousands of country music fans at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas. In the moments immediately following, news of the rampage took over the media, on air and online. At times like these, many of us turn on the television, but many more of us choose to go to Google or scroll through our social media feeds on Twitter or Facebook to learn more. If someone you knew was in Las Vegas at the time, you may have texted them, sent them a direct message or maybe even gone to the Facebook’s Crisis Response page to see if they marked themselves safe. But most of us probably just wanted to be informed citizens and to begin understanding something that seemed so incomprehensible.

This rush to the web is not new. We’ve seen it many times before when a big world event takes place, good or bad, such as after the death of someone famous, during the Olympics, or at the conclusion of a presidential election. As soon as it does, people begin seeking or sharing information about it. In an age when everyone expects instantaneous access to knowledge, our impatience puts us at risk when we do not take the time to properly vet or verify what we’re seeing or sharing. There are consequently some eager to take advantage of our impulsivity. Cybercriminals will post links to websites purporting to have exclusive photos, only to lead to a malicious site that can potentially install malware on the unsuspecting. In the case of Las Vegas, some began to post inaccurate information online about the gunman’s identity, for allegedly political reasons. When everyone wanted to know “who did this?” an answer was readily available. But when anyone can post anything, everyone else can share it with one tap, and technology platforms like Facebook or Google legitimize it, how do we begin to distinguish between what is true or safe and what is not?

This is the argument for making media literacy – the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, create, and act upon the media we engage with – a mandatory skill taught to our children, but also to adults. As parents, we realize early on that we can never control all of the people our kids will encounter in their lives, but we can teach them skills that will help them decide who they can trust and who they can’t. The same holds true with the media they encounter – online or anywhere. We will never be able to control everything they see, but we can give them the tools to identify what is valid or legitimate.

Read the full article on Huffington Post here.

 

Lynette Owens is the Founder and Global Director of Trend Micro’s Internet Safety for Kids and Families program.  With 20+ years in the tech industry, Lynette speaks and blogs regularly on how to help kids become great digital citizens.  She works with communities and 1:1 school districts across the U.S. and around the world to support digital literacy and citizenship education.  She is a board member of the National Association of Media Literacy Education and serves on the advisory boards of INHOPE and U.S. Safer Internet Day.

Follow her on Twitter @lynettetowens

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