The media landscape has drastically changed since the days of traditional newspapers in the 1950s. Digital technology created the 24/7 news cycle while social media exponentially increased the quantity of available information. Even though easy access to information is beneficial for society, the ability to critically analyze and determine the accuracy/reliability of information, otherwise known as media literacy, is equally important.
According to the Pew Research Center, today half of adults get news at least sometimes from social media. As so, the ability to identify reliable sources and misinformation has never been more important.
Introduction to Media Literacy
As of today, 19 U.S. states have media literacy included in their education standards. The programs vary significantly between states, with some requiring standalone courses and others simply incorporating media literacy into existing subjects. Regardless, state legislatures are beginning to acknowledge the importance of media literacy education and seek solutions.
It is important to understand how media literacy curriculums are incorporated into states’ education codes so you can perform your own research and fact-checking. Typically, the state legislature will pass a bill directing the Department of Education to address media literacy. From here, the Department of Education will create standards that are reflected in the state’s education code and impact all schools.
In the next section, we will explore the existing state statutes on media literacy education curriculum. Keep in mind that legislation is constantly being introduced and amended, so it is important to keep up to date on changes your state legislature is making.
State-by-State Media Literacy Requirements
This section provides a comprehensive overview of the media literacy requirements adopted by each state in the U.S. Recognizing media literacy as a crucial skill in the digital age, various states have implemented different guidelines and standards. The information is broken down on a state-by-state basis to highlight the specific requirements, any legislation passed or proposed, and the educational stages at which media literacy is integrated into the curriculum. This data serves as a valuable resource for understanding the breadth and depth of media literacy education across the United States. We include an executive summary in table format below and then a detailed table of requirements near the end of the section.
|Administrator Executive Summary on Media Literacy|
|NJ||The New Jersey Department of Education, in coordination with a committee of school library media specialists and teachers, is developing an information literacy curriculum that will be incorporated “in an appropriate place in the curriculum”.|
|DE||Delaware’s DOE is in the process of creating K-12 media literacy standards that must be adopted by all schools and taught to students “in one or more of the grades K-12”. The standards will focus on “identifying credible sources” and “cyberbullying and cyber ethics”.|
|TX||Texas’s Technology Application Standards (which include digital citizenship) apply to middle and elementary school students and will be implemented by school districts beginning with the 2024-25 school year. Additionally, Texas offers a ‘Civics Training Program’ to teachers and administrators that includes instruction in media literacy.|
|IL||Starting with the 2022-23 school year Illinois high schools are required to teach one unit of media literacy instruction. The Illinois school code pertaining to media literacy can be found here.|
|FL||Florida has embedded media literacy into its B.E.S.T Standards for K-12 in all subjects and has done so since 2009.|
|OH||Ohio’s 2017 Technology Standards are separated into three ‘strands’ and integrated into the K-12 curriculum. The strands are 1) information and communication technology, 2) society and technology, and 3) design and technology. Ohio’s DOE is in the process of creating updated standards.|
|CO||Colorado’s media literacy requirements are embedded in the Social Studies standards. They also offer a bank of online resources that school districts can use for media literacy instruction.|
|NE||Nebraska will require one course in digital citizenship for high school students starting in 2026-27 & include computer science and technology education for middle/elementary schools starting in 2024-25. Computer Science & Technology Standards.|
|CT||Connecticut’s DOE is in the process of developing a model curriculum for grades K-8 that may be used by local school boards. The curriculum will include instruction in “digital citizenship and media literacy” and be optional for schools to utilize.|
|WA||Washington allocates state funds for a two-year grant cycle that allows teams from schools & districts to share openly licensed curriculum units on media literacy.|
|MN||Minnesota adopted the ITEM Information & Technology Literacy Standards in 2019. The standards integrate media literacy in all content areas and provide schools with media and technology teams for support and training.|
|MA||Massachusetts embedded media literacy into its financial literacy standards and civics standards. Keep up with the Massachusetts Department of Education to know when the civics standards are released.|
|UT||Utah created a three-year pilot program known as the ‘Local Innovations in Civics Education Pilot Program’ that offers media literacy and digital citizenship as an ‘innovative approach’ to teaching civics. You can find Utah’s online digital literacy resources here.|
|NM||New Mexico offers media literacy as an elective that will fulfill high school graduation requirements. Find the media literacy standards here.|
|CA||California’s Department of Education created an online bank of resources/instructional material for media literacy that is available to all school districts.|
|RI||Rhode Island incorporated media literacy into its Core Standards for ELA/Literacy in 2017.|
|HI||Hawaii’s legislature passed a resolution in 2022 that urges the DOE to incorporate media literacy into the school curriculum, using Colorado’s 2019 legislation as an example. The standards are yet to be released.|
|TE||Tennesee passed legislation in 2022 requiring elementary through high school students to receive instruction in computer science. The computer science standards will be implemented beginning with the 2024-25 school year and integrate digital literacy into the standards.|
|VA||Virginian legislators created the Internet Safety Advisory Council in 2023, which is required to develop a bank of online resources and create model curriculums on internet safety that school boards can adopt by the 2024-25 school year. Neither the resources nor the curriculum have been released yet.|
|Overview of State Requirements||See a full list of state media literacy requirements.|
Governor Phil Murphy signed NJ S.B. 588 in January, which makes New Jersey one of the first states to require “that K-12 students learn about how information is produced and spread on the internet, critical thinking skills, the difference between facts and opinions and the ethics of creating and sharing information both online and in print” (Politico). The bill received widespread bi-partisan support, as the Senate’s lead sponsor Mike Testa explains; “This law isn’t about teaching kids that any specific idea is true or false. Rather, it’s about helping them learn how to research, evaluate, and understand the information they are presented for themselves”. The specific content requirements of NJ S.B. 588 are as follows:
- 1)“The research process and how information is created and produced”
- 2)“Critical thinking and using information resources”
- 3) “Research methods, including the difference between primary and secondary sources”
- 4) “The difference between facts, point of view, and opinions”
- 5) “Accessing peer-reviewed print and digital library resources”
- 6) “The economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information”
- 7 “The ethical production of information”
The New Jersey Department of Education, in coordination with a committee of school library media specialists and teachers, is developing an information literacy curriculum that will be incorporated “in an appropriate place in the curriculum”. Prior to the adoption of new learning standards, “the state shall conduct at least three public hearings”. Keep up with New Jersey’s education code to see when the DOE releases the new media literacy regulations here.
Delaware is at the forefront of media literacy education standards in the United States. On August 29, 2022, Gov. John Carney signed S.B. NO. 195 into law, which says “The Department of Education shall adopt evidence-based, media literacy standards for use by each school district and charter school serving students in 1 or more of the grades K-12.”
The bill focuses on two main areas: 1) “identifying credible sources” and 2) “cyberbullying and cyber ethics”. Lead Sponsor Sarah McBride supported the legislation because of “the prevalence of disinformation and misinformation online and the danger that it poses not just to our democracy as a concept, but to people’s safety and well-being.” Find Deleware’s education code pertaining to media literacy here and keep up with Delawares Department of Education for updates. The specific media literacy education requirements in S.B. NO. 195 are as follows:
- 1)[to understand] “The purpose and acceptable use of different social media platforms.”
- 2) “Understanding the negative impacts of inappropriate technology use…”
- 3) “Social media behavior that promotes cybersafety, cybersecurity, and cybertethics…”
- 4) “Identifying credible sources of information and how to access, analyze, evaluate, create, and participate in all forms of digital communication.”
- 5) “Critical thinking skills…”
- 6) “Identifying the purpose of media messages and how they are constructed…”
Texas has above-average media literacy education standards. In 2019, S.B. No. 11 passed which “require[s] each school district to incorporate instruction in digital citizenship into the district’s curriculum… including cyberbullying”. Digital citizenship is defined as the “standards of appropriate, responsible, and healthy online behavior, including the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, create, and act on all forms of digital communication”. Texas’s Digital Citizenship standards are embedded in Title 19, Part 2, Chapter 126 of Texas’s Administrative Code (otherwise known as ‘Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Technology Applications’). The technology standards apply to middle and elementary school students and will be implemented by school districts beginning with the 2024-25 school year. Below are highlights from the technology standards ‘Digital Citizenship’ section.
- Evaluate the bias of digital information sources, including websites.
- Collaborate and publish for a global audience on digital platforms such as recording and editing videos using appropriate formal and informal digital etiquette.
- Analyze the importance of managing a digital footprint and how a digital footprint can affect the future.
Furthermore, Texas’s legislature passed S.B. 3 in 2021, which created a ‘Civics Training Program’ that is available to teachers and administrators. “Media literacy, including instruction on verifying information and sources and identifying propaganda” is part of the Civics Training Program. Keep up with the Texas Education Agency for updates on media literacy instruction.
Illinois state legislature passed Public Act 102-0055 in 2021, which requires Illinois high schools to teach one unit of media literacy instruction as of the 2022-23 school year. Illinois defines media literacy as “the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, create, and communicate using a variety of objective forms.” Additionally, Illinois has taught an internet safety curriculum to 3rd graders and up since 2009. You can find the Illinois education code for media literacy here. Additionally, keep up with the Illinois State Board of Education for updates. The five specific requirements for teaching media literacy from Public Act 102-0055 are:
- Accessing information
- Analyzing and evaluating media messages
- Creating media
- Reflecting on media consumption
- Social responsibility and civics
Florida initially integrated media literacy into its education standards in 2013; however, Florida has changed its education standards several times since then. In 2019 Gov. Ron Desantis issued Executive Order 19-32, which directed Florida’s Department of Education to abandon the Common Core Curriculum in favor of creating their own – now known as B.E.S.T (Benchmark for Excellent Studnet Thinking). Florida schools will have completely adopted the B.E.S.T curriculum by the start of the 2022-23 school year. The B.E.S.T standards require that “curricula content for all subjects must integrate… technology-literacy skills [and] information and media-literacy skills”.
Furthermore, Florida’s Education Code dictates that “students in grades 6 through 12 [learn about] the social, emotional, and physical effects of social media.” Requirements include:
- The negative effects of social media on mental health
- The distribution of misinformation on social media
- How social media manipulates behavior
- The permanency of sharing material online
- How to maintain personal security and identify cyberbullying, predatory behavior, and human trafficking on the internet
Ohio initially created media literacy standards for their education curriculum in 2009; however, they are currently dictated by House Bill 33, which went into effect on July 4th, 2023, and directs that academic standards must “include the development of skill sets that promote information, media, and technological literacy”. Ohio’s Department of Education is still creating the new standards that House Bill 33 mandates, so we will use the 2017 Technology Standards that are still in use.
Ohio’s Technology Standards are separated into three ‘strands’ and integrated into the K-12 curriculum. The strands are 1) information and communication technology, 2) society and technology, and 3) design and technology. Please visit Ohio’s 2017 Technology Standards for more detailed information and utilize Ohio’s Department of Education for the most up-to-date news on Ohio’s media literacy education. Below are the descriptions of Ohio’s technology strands.
- The understanding and application of digital learning tools for accessing, creating, evaluating, applying, and communicating ideas and information.
- The interconnectedness of technology, self, society, and the natural world, specifically addressing the ethical, legal, political, and global impact of technology.
- Addresses the nature of technology to develop and improve products and systems over time to meet human/societal needs and wants through design processes.
In 2019 Colorado convened a ‘Media Literacy Advisory Committee’ that was responsible for recommending how to implement media literacy education in elementary and secondary curriculums. Colorado’s Legislature passed HB21-1103 in 2021, which takes a much more conservative approach to media literacy education than the advisory committee had recommended. The bill requires Colorado’s Department of Education to adopt revisions to reading, writing, and civics standards that “identify the knowledge and skills that an elementary through secondary education student should acquire relating to media literacy.” Additionally, the bill created an online bank of resources that school districts can use. You can view Colardo’s media literacy requirements here, under the social studies section, or see a general overview of the topics covered below.
- Comparing and contrasting the reliability of information received from multiple sources
- Evaluating the role of the media and public opinion in forming public policy
- Discriminate between fact and opinion in writing, reading speaking, listening, and viewing
- Point of view, primary/secondary sources, bias, propaganda, historical context
- Students learn to locate, select, and make use of relevant information from a variety of media, reference, and technological sources
Nebraska’s unicameral legislature passed Legislative Bill 1112, the Computer Science and Technology Education Act, in 2022. The bill directed Nebraska’s Department of Education to amend the standards for computer science and technology education to require one course in digital citizenship for high school students starting in 2026-27, and include computer science and technology education in the instructional program of middle and elementary schools starting in 2024-25. You can find Nebraska’s Computer Science and Technology course standards here, and keep up with Nebraska’s Department of Education website for updates. Below are the highlights of Nebraska’s standards.
- Examine and practice cultural, social, ethical, and legal issues associated with information technology.
- Formulate a critical stance by questioning the validity, accuracy, and appropriateness of information.
- Demonstrate a variety of strategies for effective and efficient searches.
- Evaluate safety and security measures for protecting information and developing digital footprints.
In 2017 Connecticut’s legislature passed Public Act No. 17-67, which convened an advisory council for media literacy and internet safety who were to recommend changes to the state’s curriculum. Later, in 2021, Connecticut passed Bill No. 6619 requiring the state Department of Education to develop a model curriculum for grades K-8 that may be used by local boards of education. The bill requires the model to include “instruction in digital citizenship and media literacy that provides students with the knowledge and skills necessary to safely, ethically, responsibly and effectively use digital technologies”. It is important to note that Connecticut’s digital literacy resources are optional for schools to use. The model curriculum for digital citizenship is yet to be released by Connecticut’s Department of Education, so the Advisory Council’s Recommendations are the most up-to-date information. Examples of the Advisory Council’s curriculum recommendations can be seen below.
- How can the information from internet sources be accessed and used safely?
- Demonstrate an understanding of and respect for the rights and obligations of using and sharing intellectual property
- Cultivate and manage their digital identity and reputation and are aware of the permanence of their actions in the digital world
In 2017 Washington became the first state to pass Media Literacy Now’s model bill, SB 5449, that, “called for an advisory council to develop best practices and recommendations for instruction on media literacy”. The bill included other provisions such as 1) completing a baseline survey to establish competency and 2) establishing an online portal to distribute recommended resources.
Furthermore, Senate Bill 5594 was passed in 2019 and allocates state funds for a two-year grant cycle that allows teams from schools and districts to share openly licensed curriculum units on media literacy. Lastly, House Bill 1365 passed in 2021 and created a media literacy supervisor role in the State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction and appropriated funds for the task. Do not forget, all of Washington’s Media Literacy education is optional. Schools must apply for grants and create their own media literacy curriculum, which is why media literacy is not present in their education code. Visit Washington’s Media Literacy & Digital Citizenship resources for more detailed information, and stay up to date with changes in media literacy curriculum at Washington’s Board of Education website.
Minnesota’s Legislature requested the Education Commissioner embed information and technology literacy standards into the state’s academic standards in 2016. The result is Minnesota’s ITEM Information & Technology Literacy Standards that were adopted in 2019. The standards integrate media literacy into all content areas and provide school districts with media and technology teams for support and training. Keep up with Minnesota’s Department of Education for updates. Below are examples of Minnesota’s standards:
- Systematically question and assess the validity and accuracy of information.
- Understand the ethical use of information, technology, and media.
- Manage their personal data to maintain digital privacy and security and are aware of data-collection technology used to track their navigation online
Massachusetts does not have any legislation directly dealing with digital literacy; however, in 2019 ‘An Act Relative To Financial Literacy in Schools’ and ‘An Act to Promote and Enhance Civic Engagement’ passed and indirectly dealt with media literacy. The first act states that financial literacy classes must “evaluate media content, including online content, that relates to personal finance matters” while the second dictates civics classes must foster “the development of skills to access, analyze and evaluate written and digital media as it relates to history and civics”. Massachusetts has not yet created the civics standards; however, below you can find examples of the financial literacy standards that pertain to media literacy. Find Massachusetts financial literacy standards here and keep up with Massachusetts Department of Education for updates.
- Explain the proper use and operation of security technologies
- Evaluate the bias of digital information sources, including websites
- Identify and describe how people use many types of technologies in their daily work and personal lives.
Utah passed H.B 213, ‘Safe Technology Utilization & Digital Citizenship in Public Schools’, in 2015. The bill “directs a school community council to create a subcommittee on safe technology utilization and digital citizenship”. The bill sought to facilitate discussion on the best practices for digital safety annually.
In 2020 Utah passed H.B. 372, Digital Wellness, Citizenship, & Safe Technology Commission, that “create[s] the Digital Wellness, Citizenship, and Safe Technology Commission to advance the goal of reaching every student, parent… with training and ongoing support in digital citizenship”. The commission was tasked to identify and compile best practices while offering training through approved providers to teachers and students in digital literacy. You can find Utah’s digital literacy resources here.
Most recently Utah passed H.B. 273 in 2022 that “created a three-year pilot program known as the Local Innovations in Civics Education Pilot Program to promote developmentally appropriate innovate approaches”. One of the innovative approaches identified is “teaching media literacy and digital citizenship”. The Civics Projects authorization in Utah’s Administrative code can be found here; however, each application is responsible for creating its own curriculum that follows Utah’s Civics Education Pilot Program regulations. Utilize Utah’s State Board of Education for changes in media literacy education.
New Mexico was one of the first states to address media literacy, with a 2009 bill, H.B. 342, that allowed media literacy to be offered as an elective to fulfill high school graduation requirements. In 2019, New Mexico’s Legislature passed H.B. 400 which created a school Media Literacy Advisory Committee to “advise the public education department on media literacy in public schools”; however, Governor Grisham vetoed the bill, stating H.B. 400 is “not a necessary use of state resources”. New Mexico still offers media literacy as an elective; however, keep up with New Mexico’s Public Education Department for any updates on media literacy education. Below are examples of New Mexico’s media literacy elective curriculum, which can be found here.
- Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.
- Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.
- Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.
- Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.
California passed Senate Bill No. 830 in 2018, requiring the Department of Education to create a bank of online resources and instructional material on media literacy available to all school districts. Additionally, California is currently considering Assembly Bill 873 which would “establish the Instructional Quality Commission” that would advise on how to integrate media literacy into K-12 curriculum. Keep up with California’s Department of Education for updates.
Rhode Island passed S 2089 in 2016, which directed the Department of Education to consider incorporating media literacy into existing curriculums. The next year, 2017, H.B. 5664 passed, which integrated media literacy into Rhode Island’s Basic Education Program for K-12. You can find Rhode Island’s Core Standards for ELA/Literacy, here, or see below for examples. Keep up with Rhode Island’s Department of Education for any changes.
- Evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of using different mediums to present a particular topic or idea
- Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, assessing whether the reasoning is sound and the evidence is relevant and sufficient; recognize when irrelevant information is introduced
- When conducting research, gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility & accuracy of each source; and quote/paraphrase while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard citation format
Hawaii passed H.R. No. 35 during the 2022 legislative session. The resolution states “that the Department of Education is urged to incorporate media literacy into the existing state public school curriculum”. Furthermore, the resolution calls on the Department of Education to consider incorporating media literacy into English or social studies curriculum – using Colorado’s 2019 media literacy legislation as an exemplar. Hawaii’s Department of Education is still creating the standards required by H.R. No. 35, so for now keep up with Hawaii’s Department of Education for updates.
Tennesee’s legislature passed H.B. No. 1667 on April 25th, 2022, which establishes a state library coordinator. Tennessee’s State Library Coordinator has to “assist school librarians in implementing the department’s strategic plan and literacy and digital citizenship initiatives”.
Furthermore, Tennessee passed SB 2406 during the 2022 legislative session which establishes that 1) “High school students [are required to] receive one full school year of computer science education”, 2) “Middle school students receive one course in computer science”, 3) “Elementary students receive grade-appropriate computer science education”. SB 2406 also created new computer science standards that will be implemented in the 2024/25 school year. You can view the standards here, or see examples of how digital literacy was integrated into the computer science curriculum below. Keep up with Tennessee’s Department of Education for updates.
- Evaluate and debate the social and economic implications of computing in the context of safety, law, and ethics
- Discuss the ethical ramifications of hacking and its impact on society
- Explain the privacy concerns related to the collection and generation of data through automated processes that may not be evident to users
Virginia’s Legislators created the “Internet Safety Advisory Council” when they passed H.B. 1575 in 2023. The council’s purpose is to “advance the goal of safe use of media and technology by students and teachers in public elementary and secondary schools”. The council is required to develop a bank of online resources and create model curriculums on internet safety that school boards can adopt by the 2024-25 school year. Neither the online resources nor model curriculums have been completed yet, so stay up to date with Virginia’s Department of Education for updates. See below for the topics that are required to be included in the upcoming model internet safety curriculum.
- (i) safe and responsible use of social networking
- (ii) the risks of transmitting personal information on the internet and the importance of privacy protection
- (iii) copyright laws
- (iv) the importance of establishing open communication with responsible adults about any online communication
- (v) how to recognize, avoid, and report suspicious, potentially dangerous, or illegal online communications or activities
Although Virginia doesn’t have media literacy requirements of its own, its legislature almost passed the Media Literacy Now model bill, but the VA governor changed it. Media Literacy Now said: “This was a disappointment after the advancement of the original bill. However, advocates can still work with the council to advance media literacy practices, as those skills are needed for safe media and tech use.”
Media and news literacy continues to gain traction as an issue in state and national legislation. To demonstrate, Congress passed the U.S. Digital Equirty Act in 2021, which includes funding for states’ digital literacy programs and general technology improvements. It is broadly understood that access and competence with digital technologies are key to economic success and mobility in the 21st century.
Media Literacy Requirements By State
|Requires K-12 media literacy instruction||Requires K-12 media literacy standards||Requires limited media literacy instruction||Requires standards in some grades or subject areas||Other legislative solution|
Furthermore, many states are concerned with the effects of misinformation on democratic governance. State legislators pointed to America’s inability to identify COVID-19 misinformation and the January 6th insurrection as justification for further action on media literacy education. Keep an eye out for further legislation on media literacy education, as there will undoubtedly be more in the coming years.
Disclaimer: Consult with your attorney for clarification and guidance on the above requirements, as we don’t provide legal advice. Also, feel free to visit your state legislature website for more information.