A House member believes Missouri children should be taught in school how to deal with and scrutinize the constant stream of information with which they are faced every day.
St. Louis Republican Jim Murphy believes all media has one thing in common: that it was created by someone, and created for a reason. He thinks children aren’t being equipped with how to figure out, in each case, what that reason is and how to deal with it.
House Bill 1585 would create the “Show-Me Digital Health Act.” It would have the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education create a curriculum on the “responsible use of social media,” but Murphy said his aim is to teach how to critically analyze information whether it comes through news, entertainment, advertising, or anything else.
“It’s about how you process the message. We see things coming at children from so many different angles, and today they’re not being taught how to process that information, how to verify it, how to question why is it they’re receiving that message, what is it the person on the other end of that message is trying to make me do,” said Murphy. “We’ve just gotta teach our kids to question, to verify, all of the different aspects of the information that’s being sent to them.”
Murphy’s bill would have DESE create a curriculum to cover things including the purpose and acceptable use of social media; identifying online misinformation; and applying protections for freedom of speech for online interactions in schools as provided by DESE.
The bill also specifies that the bill should cover cyberbullying prevention and response. Murphy said bullying goes beyond interactions between bullies and victims, but is fueled by what children see online.
“If they don’t fit into the mold of everything they see then they feel like they’re an outcast. We don’t teach them that they’re not an outcast just because they’re seeing it out there. It’s a very encompassing view, but if we’re not teaching our children to process all of the information as a whole, and questioning it as a whole, and understanding it as a whole, then they’re going to take some things personal and it can have catastrophic results,” said Murphy.
“They have to understand that what they see and hear on the internet is meaningless in their lives, and we can teach that to them but we don’t. We try to, instead, try to put a policy up that says you can’t put this information out there. Well it’s out there anyway so we have to teach the people on the other side how to process it when it gets to them.”
Murphy stresses he doesn’t believe this is a partisan issue. He doesn’t want the curriculum to be tailored to favor information from any given sources, but to teach children to understand and dissect everything with which they are presented.
He said his legislation could be expanded to address teaching children how to be safe from online predators, scams, and other such threats.
HB 1585 would require Missouri schools to adopt such a curriculum for grades three to 12 by the 2024-25 school year and provide professional development to the teachers who would use the curriculum.
His bill has been prefiled to be considered in the session that begins Wednesday.