St. HOPE Public School 7 Elementary in Sacramento used some of its stimulus funds to buy laptops for students. Photo by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters

(CALMATTERS) – As the spread of misinformation and disinformation continues, California schools are gearing up to get the next generation ready, explains CalMatters’ education reporter Carolyn Jones.

Gov. Gavin Newsom last month signed Assembly Bill 873, which requires that, starting Jan. 1, all K-12 students learn media literacy skills, such as recognizing fake news and thinking critically about what they see on the internet.

It won’t be a standalone class, but instead will be woven into existing classes and lessons throughout the school year.

The new law comes amid rising public distrust in the media, especially among young people. A 2022 Pew Research Center survey found that adults under age 30 are nearly as likely to believe information on social media as they are from national news outlets.

Advocates say media literacy can help change that, by teaching students how to recognize reliable news sources and the crucial role that media plays in a democracy.

“The increase in Holocaust denial, climate change denial, conspiracy theories getting a foothold, and now AI … all this shows how important media literacy is for our democracy right now.”

Jennifer Ormsby, library services manager for L.A. County’s Office of Education

But the new law falls short of recommendations from Media Literacy Now, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization. It doesn’t include funding to train teachers, an advisory committee, input from librarians, surveys or a way to monitor the law’s effectiveness.

Assemblymember Marc Berman, a Democrat from Palo Alto who authored the new law, said keeping it simple was key to getting it passed and implemented quickly, and that those features can be implemented later.