Enhancing Digital Media Literacy for the 2024 Election Season

6 min read

| By Gale Staff |

Since the 2020 election, 16 million Americans have turned 18, boosting younger voices at the polls.

Confronted with potential misinformation and bias through social media and other news sources, how can high school educators ensure these new voters are accurately informed? That’s where digital media literacy comes in. Young voters must learn to identify facts from prejudiced or misleading information. These competencies are essential as they discover and practice what it means to be responsible citizens in the modern world.

The year 2024 hosts dozens of democratic elections worldwide. At the same time, people are losing trust in the democratic system. Mainstream media sources can lack diverse perspectives, journalists can rely on misleading headlines for clicks, and influencers can share opinions as facts on social media platforms.

For the sake of a healthy democracy, experts believe it’s vital to engage young voters early—before they reach the legal voting age. So nonpartisan groups and the federal government are urging schools to prioritize student voter registration. Most states allow citizens to register to vote at age 16 or 17, and high school teachers are integral in getting teenagers up to speed on the process.

How can you make an impact? Consider our top strategies to teach media literacy and help students discern truth from fiction and weigh different points of view.

The diversity of available content is key when discussing a major political topic. Providing students with varied perspectives helps them understand complex, multifaceted issues. Gale resources include primary and secondary sources, op-eds, images, videos, podcasts, infographics, and more. Plus, students can filter search results to reflect specific publications from international outlets.

Encourage students to seek contrasting opinions on contentious topics. For example, Gale In Context: Global Issues hosts a range of perspectives regarding the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is likely a vital issue for the 2024 election. American opinions on the conflict are changing, and how the president approaches a resolution may prove instrumental to how he fares at the polls in November. Students can read a viewpoint essay from the New York Times, a report from Tel Aviv’s financial publication Globes, and an article from the Palestine News Network all through one comprehensive database.

How do the content and tone compare among news and viewpoint articles? Emphasize how informed voters take the time to understand the nuanced sides of a conflict rather than unquestioningly committing to one side.

Always check your sources. Every Gale article includes a thorough citation so students can quickly reference materials and vet the credibility of a publisher or author. At the top of each page, students will find a direct link to each article’s source. With just a click, students can see what else that author has written and identify significant trends regarding that perspective of the publication. Does the source tend to lean in either political direction? How often do they publish on a particular topic? Do they host diverse voices and consider opposing perspectives? Answering these questions helps inform the reliability of each source.

For many high schoolers who may be voting for the first time in 2024, climate change and the environment may be top of mind. But where are your students getting their information?

Gale’s impartial, science-based content can help young researchers further their understanding of the impacts of climate change. Dozens of related podcasts are available from NPR’s All Things Considered. Compare its content to a climate change-related article from a dedicated science-based newsletter, InsideClimate News.

But that’s just the first step; students must habitually screen their information sources. Just because someone shares something through social media doesn’t make it accurate. Teachers are essential to prepare students to be thoughtful and engaged citizens by leading classroom discussions about these critical modern-day research skills.

One key strategy for developing discernment in young voters is thoughtfully engaging them with critical-thinking questions.

That’s why Gale experts don’t simply present information—we also provide probing questions to help students consider each topic more deeply. Educators can encourage students to reflect on these prompts independently or use these critical-thinking questions to inspire healthy classroom debate.

For example, Gale In Context: High School provides an in-depth summary page on politics and the media throughout American history. From early eighteenth-century newspapers to viral social media articles, Americans have relied on the media to help inform their voting decisions.

Ask your students to reflect on the page’s embedded critical-thinking questions, such as: “How might the way a politician engages with the media alter his or her chances at winning an election?” Stimulate discussion and ask students how political candidates have interacted with popular media channels and how those efforts were or were not successful for their campaigns.

Becoming an informed voter and mindful digital citizen takes time and patience—two things many busy Americans lack. Major media outlets know this, and they’ll often use eye-catching headlines, known as clickbait, to attract readers, often at the expense of journalistic professionalism. These headlines are usually alarming and purposely misleading, even though the article’s actual content may prove accurate otherwise.

Gale’s databases often include helpful and frequently updated topic pages for today’s most complicated issues. Your students can access comprehensive yet accessible synopses on topics like abortion, illegal immigration, the Russia-Ukraine conflict, gun control, and artificial intelligence. These pages provide a reliable outline for controversial subjects, giving students valuable context and a solid foundation for further research. And every article includes a “More Like This” section featuring hyperlinked recommendations for in-depth study.

Digital media literacy skills are a cornerstone of a successful high school education in the twenty-first century. As technology becomes more pervasive in and outside the classroom, teachers are vital to ensuring the next generation can make voting decisions based on accurate information. Use Gale In Context to provide reliable, diverse content and help your students develop the skills they need to make informed voting decisions.

To learn more, connect with a Gale education consultant to see Gale In Context in action.

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