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Sharing Media Responsibly

By Gary Krahn, Ph.D., head of school
Head of School encourages media literacy by empowering each other to examine, create and share media responsibly.

“Media literacy is not just important, it’s absolutely critical. It's going to make the difference between whether kids are a tool of the mass media or whether the mass media is a tool for kids to use.” –Linda Ellerbee

Media are the avenues of communication to disseminate news, music, movies, education material, promotional messages and other data. These include, but are not limited to, physical and online newspapers and magazines, television, radio, billboards, mobile apps and digital platforms.

Media have traditionally had a “top-down” orientation where major news outlets have been well-positioned to set agendas to shape public opinion. There is now a powerful communal structure of communication that is shaping public opinion. Today, media outlets, along with millions of people with a smartphone or computer, are broadcasting their opinions and “facts.” With little oversight or accountability, social media users are free to share conspiracy theories, clickbait, hyperpartisan content, pseudo-science, and even fabricated news reports alongside accurate and useful information. With the overwhelming availability of information sources, it is challenging for anyone to sift through and find accurate information.

The fact that low-credibility content spreads so quickly and easily suggests that people are susceptible to exploitation. Individuals, institutions and even entire societies seem to be easily swayed by traditional and social media because of the vulnerability of the human brain. Below are three examples of susceptibility:

  1. A cognitive shortcut for information management happens when a person decides whether to share a story that appears on their media feed. People are influenced by the emotional impact of a headline, even though that is not a good indicator of an article’s accuracy. We share content that impacts us emotionally, regardless of its credibility. 
  2. We tend to evaluate information more favorably if it comes from within our own social circles. “Echo chambers” are ripe for manipulation, either consciously or unintentionally. This helps explain why so many online conversations devolve into “us versus them.”
  3. Machine learning imitates how humans learn, and the AI algorithm engine can efficiently identify the type of information that captures our emotions. Both social media platforms and search engines employ algorithms to select only the most engaging and captivating content for each user. In doing so, media can provoke our cognitive and social biases, making us even more vulnerable to manipulation.

As a result, media literacy is emerging as a critical academic discipline to enhance our ability to responsibly examine, create and share media. LJCDS encourages students to recognize their biases along with identifying information sources that are credible. We continue to strengthen our ongoing efforts to unify and advance media literacy for all students.

LJCDS’ promise of Inspiring Greatness for a Better World requires being critical of media and empowering each other to examine, create and share media responsibly. The challenge of preparing our students to thrive in the world demands that our entire community act as true partners.
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