An EdWeek Research Center survey recently showed that more than half (56%) of 14-18 year olds learn “some” or “a lot” about climate change through social media.
Social networks such as YouTube or TikTok can be places to generate new perspectives and connections, as well as to find high-quality learning materials. However, they are also great repositories of misinformation, lies and conspiracy theories.
It is no longer only necessary to teach the specific content to be taught. The immersion of social networks in the field of education implies the importance of teaching media literacy in schools.
According to EdWeek Research Center survey, when it comes to climate change, social media is the third most cited source, closely followed by “teachers” and “parents”. Education professionals are surprised by the popularity of these channels for obtaining climate information.
Getting information about climate change through platforms like Facebook means that, on the one hand, influencers and no formed people generate information and, on the other hand, it is information designed to evoke emotions.
Are young people active seekers of information on climate change or do they come across it indirectly? Media literacy advocates that young people take the initiative.
It is essential to teach students to search for information and to be critical about sources.
This media literacy should include aspects such as:
– Checking sources.
– Understanding algorithms and the manipulation of what the user sees on social networks.
– Critically questioning content creators and the motives they have when “posting” information on social networks.
– Recognise sensationalist and emotionally charged content that escapes reason, logic or the scientific method.
The problem, is that the most common form of content consumption by adolescents is passive. This means that it is difficult to achieve these media literacy skills.
While the EdWeek survey finds encouraging parameters, ir also shows results that are scientifically untrue, such as students believe that the ozone hole affects global warming.
Source: Action for the climate emergency. Available here
Still, according to secondary school teachers, students are increaxsingly becoming social media experts. If we can build media literacy skills, social media and Internet are powerful sources of information. This knowledge can be generating critical thinking and tools for comparison and debate in the face of differing opinions. In addition, these networks can serve to connect teenagers with others who share their own interests, for example using Twitter as megaphone for Climate activism.