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Sunshine Year Media Literacy
A teacher and librarian works with freshmen in her Digital Student class. The required class uses Google Chromebooks to teach media literacy skills and has the students scrutinize sources for their on-line information.

States push schools to teach the difference between facts and fake news

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State lawmakers across the country are pushing schools to teach students how to tell facts from fake news.

Lawmakers have introduced or passed legislation obligating the school system to include "media literacy" lessons in their curriculums. Courses would instruct students in how to be critical of their online sources.

Sunshine Year Media Literacy
A teacher instructs a freshman student in her 'Digital Student' class. The required course teaches media literacy skills and has the students scrutinize sources for their online information.

Bills have already passed in Washington state, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Mexico. Several other states will consider similar legislation in 2018, including Arizona, New York, and Hawaii.

For advocates of the legislation, the 2016 election highlighted the importance of differentiating between fact and fiction.

According to the Associated Press, studies show that while children consume large swaths of media online every day, few are able to sift through the content and differentiate between real stories and false ones. A Stanford University study last year found that middle school, high school, and college students were all "easily duped" and unprepared to process information they read online.

Sunshine Year Media Literacy
A teacher talks about source citations during the freshman 'Digital Student' class.

Many school districts have long taught media literacy to students. But lawmakers say the new and proposed legislation would be a good way to update curriculums in the current media landscape.

The new law in Washington state, for example, mandates an online resource for students with links to successful media practices. And in Rhode Island, schools must collaborate with media literacy organizations when building lesson plans related to the subject.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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