Image of a hand holding a phone with text across the screen, such as "fake news" and "disinformation"

Think Before You Click and Share: Why Media Literacy is More Critical Than Ever Before

  • October 20, 2023

With an incoming crush of cutting-edge AI tools and more than 10,0000 websites created every hour, information is more accessible than ever. Anyone with an internet connection can find online “sources” on nearly any subject and share them on social media platforms. Bogus stories and fake videos are only a click away, which is why media literacy has become an indispensable skill.

“Media can amplify harmful messages and bad behaviors, mislead and confuse people, recruit and unite extremist elements, and be used in unintended ways,” said Grant Kien, Cal State East Bay professor of communication. “It can be hard even for experts to keep up with rapid changes in technology and trends, so media literacy gives us a basic toolkit that we can use to judge any media content and make sure we are creating positive rather than negative messages ourselves.”

According to Kien, who studies media and its impact, people need to maintain a healthy skepticism and think about the message’s creator, format, audience, content and purpose before deciding whether to believe and/or proliferate that message.

When it comes to social media, studies have shown that 59 percent of all links shared on social networks aren't actually clicked on at all. Kien says there are five tips he has for anyone on social media. 

  1. Assume everything in social media is false
  2. Always look at the source and the sources of the source
  3. Always look for and compare multiple viewpoints on any issue, keeping in mind the motivations behind all expressed viewpoints
  4. Understand logical fallacies and be ruthlessly logical
  5. Be open to changing your own mind about things based on credible information and your own sense of social responsibility
  6. Bonus tip! Call out and respond to false/fake information; don't just let it slide


Kien says it isn’t just personal policing, we also need to watch our children as they navigate a world where algorithms are leveraged to captivate them with inexhaustible streams of content. If we are not media literate, how can we expect our children to be able to discern the truth and balance the need for technology with health and safety? He advises parents to monitor and limit their children's media use. If they resist you regulating it, he says that's understandable since apps are designed to keep us scrolling and engaged. 

“It is crucial you talk about what they are consuming and how they interpret their media,” said Kien. “You are their primary opinion leader; you are the one who they look to in order to judge what they are seeing and doing, so it is your responsibility to make sure they process what they consume in a healthy way. If you don't do it, someone else will.“