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In a time when many kids (and adults) get their news from social media, there’s been growing concern about the spread of misinformation. While it may be common for kids to get information on the world from TikTok, New Jersey is now taking steps to ensure that children understand the difference between fact and opinion.

In an effort to combat misinformation in the media, Governor Phil Murphy earlier this month signed legislation (S588) that requires K-12 schools to instruct on information literacy. New Jersey is now the first state with such a mandate, which falls under New Jersey Student Learning Standards.

Under this bill, information literacy will include digital, visual, textual and technological media. Students will learn how to find information, use critical thinking skills, spread information online and will learn the difference between facts and opinions.

“Our democracy remains under sustained attack through the proliferation of disinformation that is eroding the role of truth in our political and civic discourse,” Murphy said in a news release. “It is our responsibility to ensure our nation’s future leaders are equipped with the tools necessary to identify fact from fiction. I am proud to sign legislation that is critical to the success of New Jersey’s students and essential to the preservation of our democracy.”

The Department of Education will be required to form a committee including teachers and school librarians to assist in the development of literacy standards. Standards will be reviewed by experts before they are implemented in the classroom.

According to a news release from the governor’s office, each school district will incorporate instruction on information literacy in an appropriate place in the curriculum of students in grades kindergarten through 12 as part of the district’s implementation of the New Jersey Student Learning Standards. The guidelines will include, at a minimum, the following:

  1. the research process and how information is created and produced;
  2. critical thinking and using information resources;
  3. research methods, including the difference between primary and secondary sources;
  4. the difference between facts, points of view, and opinions;
  5. accessing peer-reviewed print and digital library resources;
  6. the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information; and
  7. the ethical production of information.

Senator Michael Testa, a primary sponsor of the bill said this was not about teaching kids whether specific ideas are true or false, but rather about helping them to research, understand and evaluate the information they are presented with.

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