Opinion: Media illiteracy cuts across every age group in Thailand not just teenagers

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According to the latest data at the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), the majority of 15-year-old students in Thailand do not know how to distinguish between fact and opinion online.

Its 2018 ranking show that the Thai students’ knowledge of reading strategies for assessing the credibility of sources ranked among the lowest in the world, we are basically second to last.

That is alarming given that the same report also shows that globally, more and more 15-year-olds are going online to access information.  

According to PISA, a Thai 15-year-old’s total online consumption has risen from 21 hours a week in 2012, to 35 hours in 2018.

They also said that poorly informed students could lead to “political polarisation, decreased trust in public institutions, and undermine democracy.”

That is precisely what is happening in Thailand right now.

Our society is now is more divided than ever backed by misinformation and draconian laws.

The level trust in public institutions had never been this low.

Change is needed

If the PISA study is true, then our teenagers must be better equipped by the education system to deal with fake news and misinformation.

But if the question is, who is using misinformation to sew seeds of discord in society and undermining democracy, then the answer is not a bunch of teenagers who get their news from twitter.

If anything, the generation least equipped to interpret the rise of fake news and to sift through misinformation has been the boomers and Generation X.

We all have Line chats filled with rumors sent by older relatives claiming miraculous Covid fighting properties of the latest fad. They are all fake.

Or take the royalist mobs that descended on the American embassy looking for blood – so sure were they that the Americans were funding the student protests.

We live in an era of disinformation and the ones that are gaining advantage are ones that can use disinformation to discredit their opponents while spurring on their own side.

The last time we checked, the student protesters and the teenagers asking for change were not the ones paying for Information Operation (IO) campaigns. The teenagers do not have army camps full of IO operatives trying to spin fake news towards a perceived advantage.

So then who does fund the IO operatives? And who are the IO campaigns targeting.

Not the teenagers, that’s for sure. If anything the news being spun by these disinformation mills are being targeted towards the boomers and those that are susceptible for such campaigns.

If the PISA study is true, then our teenagers must be taught media literacy for sure and how to interpret information in this crazy, strange new world.

But what the PISA study fails to recognize is that the most media illiterate age group is not teenagers but their parents and grandparents. And if anyone has the power to undermine democracy, it is them.


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