Little Justice Leaders Blog

Supporting Children’s Critical Thinking & Media Literacy Skills by Starting with Ourselves – Part One

by Katie Moran

Take a moment to consider how you would answer the question, “When are you confident that something you have read or heard is true?” My all-time favorite response came from a sixth grade student years ago when they responded, “Ugh! I don’t know! Why is this so hard?” 

As that wise sixth grader lamented, media literacy is hard. And it should be if we’re doing it right. Misinformation is insidious and plays a massive role in our contemporary experience; navigating today’s media landscape in search of fact-based news and truthful journalism requires vigilance and constant critical thinking. As caregivers and educators, we can support young learners’ critical thinking skills by first supporting our own. 

Some Things to Remember Before You Begin:

It is uncomfortable to be faced with evidence that undermines your current beliefs and understandings. Human beings routinely pay attention to and/or seek out information that supports their existing beliefs, and undermine and/or ignore information that does not. The American Psychological Association (APA) refers to this concept as “confirmation bias.” Enter into media literacy work with the mindset that being wrong is empowering, not shameful, and that it presents the opportunity to learn new information and deepen understanding. 

Begin to Build a Foundation of Understanding:

The organization Facing History & Ourselves has a vast collection of resources on confirmation bias. Start by watching their “Defining Confirmation Bias” and Combating Confirmation Bias” videos. In fact, watch them more than once and give yourself time to reflect and record any lingering questions so you can revisit them at a later time. 

Practice, Practice, Practice: 

Media literacy and critical thinking are skills that require regular practice, and they can be strengthened through intentionally entering situations where we will likely be forced to think differently and consider information that is unfamiliar to us. Below are some resources that can help you get started:

Stay tuned for part two that will address exercising these skills in our conversations and work with young learners!