Dewan: Social media and digital literacy for youth 
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    Humans are naturally social beings. Socialization, companionship and healthy relationships are essential to our overall well-being and to thrive in life. The strength of our connections has an impact on our feelings of happiness, and our physical and mental health. Connecting with others eases stress, anxiety and depression and prevents loneliness.

    Many people have come to rely on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube and Instagram to find and connect with each other, locate news and information and even make purchases.

    In fact, a 2022 Pew Research report found most teens use the internet about once a day and that number has increased since 2014-15. Approximately 97% of teens say they use the internet daily, compared with 92% of teens in 2014-15 who said the same. Social media has increased significantly over time and even younger children are using social media platforms and apps.

    While social media technologies may have been designed to bring people together and increase connections, spending too much time engaging with social media is known to contribute to feelings of isolation and loneliness. It’s also been found to exacerbate mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. Further, absent the skills to critically evaluate the communications and information shared online, young people can fall prey to scams and be harmed by misinformation.

    A 2019 Stanford University study gauged students’ ability to evaluate digital sources found on the internet. The findings pointed to the inability of most study participants to accurately assess the credibility of information and difficulty distinguishing between content types, such as advertisements and news.

    As children and youth are increasingly using and relying on the internet and social media for research, social connection, to consume news, make purchases and much more, there is a need to incorporate more digital and media literacy instruction to help youth effectively navigate the internet and be critical media consumers and creators.

    Media literacy instruction develops students’ critical thinking skills and teaches students to evaluate information. It includes digital citizenship, which is a diverse set of skills related to the internet, current technologies and social media, including the norms of appropriate, responsible and healthy behavior. Media literacy instruction teaches students how to curate content and create media content according to norms and standards. Media literacy enables students to understand and engage in civil discourse and assess information critically when interpreting it.

    California Assemblymember Marc Berman introduced AB 873 in an effort to assist young people in learning the skills and information needed. The goal of this bill would be to integrate media literacy instruction into core subjects. The bill, if passed, would direct the California Instructional Quality Commission to incorporate media literacy content into curriculum frameworks such as English language arts and language development, science, mathematics and history-social science.

    On May 9, the American Psychological Association released information to help parents understand the impact of social media on youth and guidance for families to help keep youth safe as they navigate the internet and social media. Educators and families can find helpful media literacy resources at Common Sense Media.

    The Santa Clara County Office of Education, in partnership with KQED, is offering a free professional development session on media literacy and online critical thinking for high school educators. Atendees will receive access to free media literacy curriculum, resources, books and lesson tools. Register to attend the two-day virtual session on July 19 and 20 from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.

    San José Spotlight columnist Mary Ann Dewan is the superintendent of schools for Santa Clara County. She has more than 33 years of experience in the field of education. Her columns appear every third Monday of the month.

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