Canadians of all ages need a lesson on media literacy

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Teaching young Canadians how to discern what’s real news and what’s fake has become critical in a world dominated by social media. But these lessons should extend to Canadians of all ages in order to create a real impact on media literacy within our country. 
 
In order to educate Canadian students on how to spot fake news, Google Canada is rolling out a new media literacy program called NewsWise. It’s expected to be in schools before the next federal election in 2019. 
 
Young Canadians are in a very new position when it comes to how they consume news media. The internet has provided us with access to a wealth of information about what’s going on locally and around the world. Yet, separating fact from fiction has never been more difficult. 
 
Incorporating media literacy into Ontario curriculums is the first step to having a better-informed country. While it’s a great thing that NewsWise is focused on affecting the future of news consumption in Canada, it still leaves older Canadians out. 
 
Unfortunately, the program won’t affect Canadians who are currently eligible to vote in Ontario. By only focusing on educating current students, provisions are focused on combating fake news in the future. NewsWise is going to help Canadians eventually, but ignores the problem fake news presents to Canadians today. 
 
Adult Canadians who can’t differentiate between what’s fake and what’s real will be the ones who are vulnerable to being politically influenced by fake news stories. With a federal election looming long before the majority of today’s students are eligible to vote, the impact of NewsWise’s media literacy program won’t be seen for years to come. 
 
Canadian curriculums need to include and fund their own permanent education programs on media literacy to keep up with an evolving problem. Including workplace and community programs like NewsWise for older generations of Canadians is the next step to cultivating a well-informed country now. 
 
If Canadians learn to take a step back before clicking that like or share button on social media, it can make a huge difference in what goes viral. During the 2016 American election, false news stories were able to spread through social media platforms like Facebook because of a lack of fact-checking mechanisms within the website. Social media platforms like Facebook need to take responsibility for the damage unchecked sharing of fake news stories can do. 
 
It’s never been easier to spread news, which is why it’s more critical than ever to know how to teach people to examine what they consume carefully.  
 
— Journal Editorial Board

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