May 12, 2023 – This national Mental Health Awareness Month, Media Literacy Now is launching its 2023 campaign, “Prepare & Prevent: Addressing Mental Health and Child Safety through Large Scale Digital Wellness Education” to highlight the urgency of Digital Wellness education and health-related media literacy for K-12 students today.
We are in a time of mental health crisis for young people. Recently the CDC reported nearly 1 in 3 teen girls have seriously considered suicide in the past year. Between 2009 and 2019, depression rates doubled for all teens, and eating disorders are on the rise. Young people are easily exposed to information online that promotes alcohol binging, drug use, eating disorders, and other self-harm, including cutting and suicidal behavior. Harassment and bullying online are everywhere, including hate-related attacks on racial, ethnic, gender, and sexual minorities. Sexual harassment and threats of sexual violence are disturbingly commonplace.
“Evidence is mounting that digital culture plays a critical role in the emotional lives and well-being of children and teens,” says Tamara Sobel, Media Literacy Now National Advisor on Health & Media. “And while there are clearly benefits to using information and social media – finding community, connection, information, entertainment – young people are often oblivious to the risks of media they use, and their still-developing brains are more susceptible to poor judgment and harmful effects. But we hear all the time that young people themselves really want to learn more about protecting themselves in their digital lives. Our policies need to catch up.”
Prepare and Prevent: Addressing Mental Health and Child Safety through Large Scale Digital Wellness Education reflects Media Literacy Now’s deep concern that lack of media literacy skills are impacting youth and their mental health and well being. Through the campaign, MLN will build alliances to promote and expand media literacy education, and pursue new avenues to increase young peoples’ educational access to these essential skills and knowledge areas.
Digital Wellness education, included under the broad category of media literacy, teaches students to understand and manage the emotional and mental health impacts of their screen time; Health media literacy focuses on determining the credibility of online health news and information.
“A rising tide of voices is calling for us to protect our kids from the potential harms they can face in their digital worlds,” said Erin McNeill, president and founder of Media Literacy Now. “Part of that solution has to be empowering our kids with the skills and knowledge they need to be safe and healthy in the many hours they spend on screens. We need to act now, and we have to – and will – find ways to reach as many schools and teachers and students as possible.”
Contact: Tamara Sobel at TSobel@medialiteracynow.org
Media Literacy Now (MLN) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan national organization working to change and modernize educational policy to include the teaching of media literacy in K-12 education in the US. The organization has an extensive network of changemakers in states all across the country, a successful record in policy reform, and a commitment to creating a world where young people have the skills they need to thrive in a digital world.
Tamara Sobel is MLN National Advisor on Health & Media. She is a health educator, former public interest lawyer, and has been a policy advocate in Massachusetts for Media Literacy Now.
The Hug Morenz Foundation for Media Literacy is a primary underwriter for Media Literacy Now advocacy projects.
August 2023 Update: Additional funding for the project comes from the Argosy Foundation.