Joann Bogard’s media literacy advocacy began in 2019 after tragically losing her 15-year-old son, Mason, to the “Choking Challenge,” a viral social media trend targeted to young people via social media platforms. She worked for the 2nd largest school district in Indiana and started having conversations about media literacy education but was surprised she couldn’t get any traction. When her district’s superintendent remarked that they were surprised there wasn’t a law, Mrs. Bogard decided to change that.

From the time that Mrs. Bogard began outreach to state lawmakers to the time that her bill, “Mason’s Education Act” was signed by Indiana’s governor earlier this year, she has learned some key lessons in state advocacy and shared her insight with Media Literacy Now and our other State Advocacy Leaders. Her efforts are an example of the tenacity of our advocates and how anyone can work toward ensuring young people gain an understanding of how media systems work and the impact they can have on developing minds.

Lesson one: Take the first step and reach out to legislators

When Mrs. Bogard first started her advocacy, she connected with Media Literacy Now. Together, we identified potential model bills to share with her local representative and senator. After some coaching, she reached out to lawmakers with the model bills, shared her personal story about Mason, and the importance of media literacy education to address social media harms. Immediately she received a response from Indiana State Senator Jim Tomes, who wrote a bill promoting the education of internet safety in schools. “Media Literacy Now walked me through the legislative process and gave advice on who to contact to get Mason’s Education Act passed into law,” said Mrs. Bogard. “I’m so grateful for their guidance and support.” Often the first step in advocacy is connecting with your local lawmakers and raising awareness. Our lawmakers need constituents to reach out with solutions to the problems they are trying to solve. She also became part of the MLN community of state advocates who support each other.

Did you know that you can use our form to ask your state lawmakers to prioritize media literacy education? You can use our prewritten message or write or record a message of your own. Reach out to your lawmakers.

Lesson two: Telling your story and making an impactful argument 

A key component to her advocacy is combining data with her personal story. When the bill was reintroduced in 2024, Mrs. Bogard pulled together statistics to demonstrate the severity of the issue at hand. For example, in a single year in Indiana, 34,000 high schoolers noted they had attempted suicide (according to a survey conducted by Riley Children’s Health); 95 more kids have died from the “Choking Challenge” just since Mason passed 5 years ago. These staggering statistics were shared with lawmakers along with statements of support from local and statewide organizations like the Easterseals Rehabilitation Center, the Indiana Association of School Principals, Healthy Screen Habits, and the Center for Online Safety. But probably most effective was the Bogards’ story. When Mrs. Bogard was advocating in D.C. for a national internet safety bill, her husband attended the Indiana Senate Committee Hearing and shared Mason’s story on her behalf. Following his testimony, Mrs. Bogard received emails from six committee members stating that her husband’s remarks are what prompted them to support the bill.

“When Mason died, I asked one of the trauma surgeons what I could do to make sure that this doesn’t continue to happen. Her answer was simple: ‘Tell your story. And keep telling it until someone pays attention.’ That was the spark that influenced me to fight for change,” said Mrs. Bogard. “I’m not a public speaker. I’m just a mom with a personal story to share.”

The Bogards’ personal story is tragic, but they’ve found a way to honor their son through their advocacy to make sure that more lives aren’t lost from the harms that often come with social media. At the end of the day, we all want children to be able to navigate social media and other forms of media safely. By combining data and statistics about media harms with your personal “why,” you can be a powerful advocate for media literacy education. 

Lesson three: Don’t be discouraged by obstacles or hiccups – keep at it

From the time the bill was initially introduced in 2023 to when it was signed by the governor in 2024, the internet safety bill stalled and then was attached and detached to a number of other education bills. At one point, it was combined with a cursive writing bill that historically was not popular among lawmakers. Mrs. Bogard reached out to senators’ aides to tell them about her portion of the bill and the reason they should care about promoting internet safety. Her persistence led to the bill passing the House and Senate on very strong bipartisan votes before ‘Mason’s Education Act’ was signed by the governor in March 2024. It’s not unusual for bills to not move the first — or even second — year they’re introduced, but persistence pays off. 

What’s Next

Change can take time, and that’s certainly the case when it involves raising awareness of a complicated issue. 

“I was scared to start this journey. I worried that I didn’t know enough about the legislative process. I worried that the legislators wouldn’t listen or care what one person had to say. But they do care. That is how our system is built. We are the constituents. And one voice can truly make a difference,” said Mrs. Bogard.

For Mrs. Bogard, this is only the beginning. Now that Mason’s Education Act has passed, she’ll be keeping an eye on how the state moves forward in its implementation, keeping the pressure on for schools to offer media literacy education, specifically with regard to social media and its harms. Additionally, she is a volunteer for Fairplay’s Screen Time Action Network and advocates for the inclusion of media literacy education in the federal Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA).

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