Tips and resources for news literacy, media balance, and healthy communication.

Young student with a mask sitting behind a desk partition in a classroom

As we continue to work with the repercussions of the pandemic, many students, teachers, and families, are still reeling. A sense of anxiety—social or otherwise—is fairly pervasive as we continue to reintegrate.

To help reduce students' anxiety and your own, we've put together some ideas and resources focused on news literacy, media balance, and healthy communication. We hope they're helpful as you continue to navigate these challenging times.

Talk about it

Avoiding conversations about what's happening will only increase students' anxiety. It's important for kids of all ages to talk through what they're hearing and get developmentally appropriate information from a trusted adult. Helpful resources to try:

Focus on the facts

For many students, anxiety about the news they often can't help but see or hear about can emerge in all kinds of ways. Addressing topics with simple, age-appropriate facts can be helpful. Resources to try:

Build critical-thinking and news literacy skills

Social media can be a hotbed of rumors and misinformation -- even more so as people are acting and reacting from a place of fear or partisan interest. Guide students to credible news sources and encourage them to fact-check what they see on social media or hear from their friends. If you have time to add some news literacy instruction, consider teaching a lesson so kids can practice these skills. For older students, in addition to our digital citizenship lessons, we have a collection of short, video- and discussion-based news and media literacy activities. From our curriculum, here are some helpful lessons to try (modify for target grade as needed)

Model and encourage media balance

With round-the-clock news content coming from every direction, we may be compelled to keep up with the latest headlines. But a constant stream of updates can often end up making us feel more uncertain or even anxious, rather than informed. It's important -- for both you and your students -- to reflect on how your media use makes you feel. We can all reflect on our media choices and make adjustments to our media use accordingly. For younger kids, the issue may simply be more time on screens in general; older students may need help considering the types of media they're consuming. Here are some helpful lessons to try (modify for target grade as needed):

Stay active and have some fun

When we're feeling worried or stressed, a little distraction goes a long way. Incorporating some physical activity into the school day can be a fun way to lighten the mood. From how-to dance videos to yoga for kids, you can find easy-to-implement activities to get students' bodies moving and their minds calm. Helpful resources to try:

Support parents and caregivers

If parents and caregivers are stressed, kids are going to pick up on it. While it's not your job to manage parents' anxiety, it is important to be mindful of its impact on your students. Keep the lines of communication open as you deal with questions about your school's transition back to in-person instruction. And pass along resources and tips for parents and caregivers to help them deal with the uncertainty of the situation in a healthy way. Helpful resources to share:

Image courtesy of Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for American Education: Images of Teachers and Students in Action.

Erin Wilkey Oh

Erin’s work focused on supporting students, teachers, and families for over a decade. As content director for family and community engagement at Common Sense, she provided parents and caregivers with practical tips and strategies for managing media and tech at home, and supports teachers in strengthening partnerships with families. Prior to her work with Common Sense, Erin taught public high school students and adult English learners in Kansas City. Her time as a National Writing Project teacher consultant nurtured her passion for student digital creation and media literacy. She has bachelor's degrees in English and secondary education and a master's degree in instructional design and technology. Erin loves to knit, read, hike, and bake. But who has time for hobbies with two young kids? In her free time these days, you'll find her hanging out at playgrounds, the zoo, and the beach with her family.