California Gov. Gavin Newsom talks with 7th grade students at James Denman Middle School in San Francisco on Oct. 1, 2021. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
California students will learn media literacy skills in school beginning January 2024, after a bill was signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom last month.
The new law aims to help elementary to high school students develop critical thinking skills regarding online and other information.
It also sets state standards for media literacy and requires the state Department of Education’s Instructional Quality Commission to incorporate such content into English language arts, science, mathematics, and history-social science curricula when those frameworks are next revised.
The law defines media literacy as the “ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and use media and information and encompasses the foundational skills that lead to digital citizenship,” according to the bill’s text.
Assemblymember Marc Berman (D-Menlo Park), who authored the bill, said “digital citizenship” is a “diverse set of skills related to current technology and social media, including the norms of appropriate, responsible, and healthy behavior” in an analysis of the bill.
Mr. Berman said he introduced the bill because children are increasingly getting the majority of their information and news from the internet.
“Misinformation and disinformation on the internet intensify political polarization, threaten public health, and undermine faith in democratic institutions,” he said in the analysis. “As kids spend more time online and get the majority of their news from social media, they need to be equipped to detect, analyze, and evaluate negative or false media messages.”
The analysis also provided several media literacy example lessons—including teaching elementary students to use the online library catalog, middle school students to use spreadsheets to organize data, and high school students to access information in a database and then create a video project about such information.
Mr. Berman also previously said that the bill follows the lead of several other states—such as New Jersey, Illinois, and Delaware—in integrating media literacy into educational core subjects.
The new law comes as research shows that young adults are increasingly likely to believe information from social media and less likely to trust traditional news outlets.
A 2022 Pew Research Center survey found that adults under age 30 are now almost as likely to trust information they see on social media as that from news outlets.
Fifty percent of young adults surveyed reported trust in information from social media sites, while 56 percent said the same about national news organizations, and 62 percent from local news organizations.