Media Literacy Bill Becomes Law

In cooperation with the Northwest Alliance for Responsible Media (NW-ARM) and Action for Media Education (AME)
4616 25th Ave NE, #310, Seattle, WA 98105
April 2, 2016
Lynn Ziegler 360-930-3044, 360-204-8674 Linda Kennedy 206-799-4321
It’s official: in Washington State, the Digital Citizenship /Media Literacy Bill IS THE LAW!
The new law addresses the growing public concern regarding the way our children use media screens and what the screens teach children about the world.
Sponsored by Senator Marko Liias (D, Lynnwood), the just signed law establishes a process to ensure ongoing discussion and action at both the state and local school district levels. It stresses that our children must learn how to safely, ethically, responsibly, and effectively use technology.
“Our schools can and must play a leading role in teaching students to become safe, principled users of digital resources in an increasingly complex communications environment,” said Senator Liias.
Washington’s Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) will work with an advisory group to identify best instructional practices and develop a set of recommendations on digital citizenship, Internet safety, and media literacy. Beginning in 2017-18, WA school districts will be required to annually review their policies and procedures on electronic resources and Internet safety and to consider OSPI recommendations.

Seattle-based nonprofit Action for Media Education (AME) initially proposed the bill. AME’s mission, throughout its 25 year history, has been to foster and promote digital and media literacy for children and the citizenry at large. AME’s president, Claire Beach, says the need for this bill has never been greater. According to a recent study, teenagers spend an average of nine hours on entertainment media per day and “tweens” (ages 8-12) an average of six hours a day, not including time using media for school or homework. (Common Sense Media, 2015). Many of our children spend more time in front of screens than with any other activity besides, perhaps, sleeping.

“In this 21st century, our definition of literacy must be expanded to include digital and media literacy education,” said Marilyn Cohen, Director of the NW Center for Excellence in Media Literacy at the University of Washington.
Though digital communications have had many positive influences on the world, parents and educators have recently expressed major concerns. Cyberbullying, for example, occurs at alarming rates and can have devastating results. Media can create false realities. Children do not have the maturity or the sophistication to understand and process all the material to which they are exposed. Digital and media literacy are essential 21st century skills which help students navigate the modern world. Media literacy teaches them to recognize stereotypes and bias; it teaches them to look for what is left out of the message; and to ethically and responsibly use the tools given to them.
What do Washington State’s kids get out of this new law? According to Michael Danielson, Media Literacy Teacher at Seattle Preparatory School, students easily remember how to define media literacy simply by using vowels (a, e, i, o, u): Analyze, Evaluate, Interpret, Organize and Understand media.
Parents will be happy to learn that media literacy helps develop critical thinking skills, especially important in election years, according to AME’s Media Critic, author Lynn Ziegler.

Stay tuned!

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