Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

News Literacy Week, Because One of the Things 2020 Taught is That Teens Need Better Information Literacy Skills

Yesterday The Hollywood Reporter tweeted out an article with the headline “Get the Poodle Instead of the Prozac”, which got the pushback that an article like this deserves. Depression is a mental health issue and medication it the correct course of action for a large number of people who struggle with it. In addition, pet adoption comes with a lot of responsibility and can be quite costly. This headline was dangerous in a world that continues to stigmatize mental health issues and medicinal treatment for those issues, especially during a deadly global pandemic in which many, including a growing number of youth, are struggling with mental health issues.

This headline is also a great example of something we can teach our youth regarding Information Literacy 101: Use the right source for the topic. I personally go to the Hollywood Reporter daily to see the latest entertainment news headlines and to learn what recent YA book adaptation is being adapted for television or a movie. It’s a great resource for entertainment news, but not a good resource for medical information. For quality information on depression and other mental health issues, you would do best to consult a medical journal and, most importantly, your doctor who is familiar with your specific history. The source of information matters, always.

The News Literacy Project is partnering with The E.W. Scripps Company to launch a national public awareness campaign on the importance of news literacy and the role of the free press in American democracy. The campaign culminates in National News Literacy Week, Jan. 25-29.

Today kicks off News Literacy Week and I believe it is imperative that everyone that works in a library be engaged in advocating for and teaching our students and patrons how to be better consumers of information. Here are some resources to check out and share.

News Lit.org

News Lit is the sponsor of News Literacy Week and they have a quiz you can share to test our knowledge of the news here: https://newslit.org/news-literacy-week/

Understanding What an Infodemic Is

This year I kept seeing the term “infodemic” and it was new to me, so I imagine it is new to a lot of our youth as well: “Infodemic is a portmanteau of “information” and “epidemic” that typically refers to a rapid and far-reaching spread of both accurate and inaccurate information about something, such as a disease. As facts, rumors, and fears mix and disperse, it becomes difficult to learn essential information about an issue.” The Word Health Organization has some good information about this topic here: https://iris.paho.org/bitstream/handle/10665.2/52052/Factsheet-infodemic_eng.pdf?sequence=14

Understanding News Media Bias

There has been and needs to continue to be a discussion about understanding news media bias. The American Press Institute has a brief intro to this topic here: https://www.americanpressinstitute.org/journalism-essentials/bias-objectivity/understanding-bias/. This is also a good resource because there are a ton of links at the end of this article that talk about Journalism 101. You can also find a discussion of a media bias graphic here and it links to a template that you can have your students fill out: https://knowledgequest.aasl.org/information-bias/

What About Conspiracy Theories?

Of course, this past year there has been a lot of discussion about conspiracy theories, including what they are, how they happen, and how they are spread and affect our current climate. Wired magazine has a discussion about teens, TikTok and conspiracy theories here: https://www.wired.com/story/teens-tiktok-conspiracy-theories/. One of the ways that we can help protect against the proliferation of conspiracy theories is to teach kids critical thinking skills, which is discussed here: https://theconversation.com/to-combat-conspiracy-theories-teach-critical-thinking-and-community-values-147314.

Build an Information Literacy Collection

It would be disingenuous for me or any educator or librarian to suggest that teaching Information Literacy will solve our world’s woes, but it is a tool that we can give our youth that fits in our wheelhouse. One of the things we should do is teach it in the classroom and build solid Information Literacy collections that keep this idea front and center in our communities. Seeing the titles is an important reminder for our patrons that information literacy is an ongoing process that everyone must engage in for themselves, for their community, and for democracy. Some titles you may want to include are:

There are also some great Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction titles that discuss the Internet and social media and how they can affect the lives of teens:

If you have additional titles or resources that you would like to recommend, I would love to hear about it in the comments. This is something that I have personally been talking a lot with my tweens and teens about and I hope that you are as well.