domingo, febrero 18, 2007

Teaching your child to be Media Literate

“Parents could once easily mold their young children’s upbringing by speaking and reading to children only about those things they wished their children to be exposed to, but today’s parents must battle with thousands of competing images and ideas over which they have little direct control.”

– Joshua Meyrowitz

Author of No Sense of Place: The Impact of Electronic
Media on Social Behavior (1985, p.238)

Did you know…?

• Young people between the ages of 8 and 18 spend an average 40 hours per week with some form of media…That’s a full-time job!

• The typical North American youth (8 -18) lives in a home with an average 3.6 CD/tape players, 3.5 TVs, 2.9 VCRs/DVD players, 2.1 video game consoles and 1.5 computers.

• The average child watches more than 2 ½ hours of TV per day; and one out of every six children watches more than 5 hours of TV a day.

In this media-saturated culture, the massive corporate targeting of children and young adults has led many parents to become increasingly worried about their children’s “media diet”. Teaching your child to be media literate begins early on with two simple steps: become informed and become a media literate advocate.

Become informed. This begins by taking the initiative to learn more about the influence the media has not only on our children but also on yourself. Practice critical thinking when you are watching movies, television and see advertising. Information is power and understanding the power of media contributes to wiser media usage.

Become a media literate advocate. While few parents let their children choose their own food and alcohol diets, many parents have little control over their children’s media “diet”. Teaching our children to be media literate begins early and through example. Here are some suggestions to promote family media literacy (Strasburger et al, 2002):

• From an early age, play and read with your children as much as possible.

• Limit consumption of screens and do not let young children have televisions or computers in their rooms.

• Do not proscribe media but rather provide a lifestyle that engages children in a variety of activities.

• Plan carefully, and discuss media choices with your children.

• Censor unsatisfactory media and provide appropriate media.

• Try to watch as a family and discuss the shows/movies as you watch them and after you watch them.

• Give your children a sense of pride in having skills of analysis, access, evaluation and communication.

Understanding the media

The ability to critically understand and evaluate the media is an essential skill in today’s world. Being able to understand not only the surface content of media messages but also the deeper meaning beneath the surface is an important skill to have particularly as a parent. The following is a selection of some key media literacy “tools” and skills to think further about.

Source: Strasburger, V.C. - Wilson, B.J. (2002) Children Adolescents and the Media. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.

Media constructs our culture.

Our society and our very sense of reality are shaped by the information and images we receive through the media. It is important to understand and help our children understand the impact the media has on how we understand the world, other people and ourselves.

Media messages contain certain values and meanings.

Some of these messages are intended, and some are unintended. However, these messages and values tend to target specific groups. Because the media is so powerful, it is important to ask a number of questions including:

• Who is this message for?
• Who wants to reach this intended audience and why?
• Whose voices are heard and whose are absent?

These questions ask us to be critical of media messages and never to accept a message at face value.

Individuals interpret media in different ways.

The way you construct meaning from the media is most likely to be different from the way your children, partner, co-worker or friends do. This is because we interpret the media from our unique positions based on our gender, race, class, sexual orientation and so on. How these factors combine and what experiences you have had as a consequence of them result in how you will understand and interpret media messages.

Media creates fantasy worlds.

Although media is can be pleasurable and an entertaining activity, it is also important to understand the extent to which it may be harmful. For example, media messages and advertising regarding gambling usually portray gambling as a fun, spontaneous and exciting activity while ignoring the serious problems that often occur as a result of it. Media literacy allows us to recognize fantasy and constructively integrate it with reality.

Most media are controlled by commercial interests.

While this point may seem largely obvious, it is important to understand the extent to which the marketplace determines what we see on television, what we hear on the radio, and what we read in magazines and newspapers. As money increasingly comes to be the underlying factor driving media, asking questions becomes even more important.

Media messages can be decoded.

By practicing critical thinking skills and applying it to powerful media messages, we can begin to understand how persuasion is used and recognize how media makers are trying to influence us.

Jacobs, W. (2005). Speaking the Lower Frequencies: Students and Media Literacy. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Strasburger, V.C. & Wilson, B.J. (2002). Children, Adolescents, & the Media. Thousand Oaks:
Sage Publications.

What is Media Literacy?


We live in an ever-increasing media saturated world. It is everywhere we go and everywhere we turn. We watch movies and television on cell phones, in the back of car seats, in subway stations, and in our homes. We listen to the radio on the internet, in the doctor’s office and on smaller and smaller portable electronic devices like MP3 players and web-capable cell phones. We are exposed to advertising on the sides of buildings and trash cans; in newspapers, in television commercials and movies; and on trucks, taxis, buses and streetcars. While the media should be enjoyed, it is also important to understand the ways in which it influences us and our children.

Media Literacy is the ability to analyze, access, evaluate and communicate all forms of media.

Media Literacy also emphasizes the following elements (Silverblatt, 2001):

• critical thinking skills that allows audiences to develop independent judgments about media content;

• an understanding of the process of mass communication;

• an awareness of the impact of media on the individual and society;

• the development of strategies with which to discuss and analyze media messages;

• an awareness of media content as a “text” that provides insight into our contemporary culture and ourselves;

• the development of a greater enjoyment, understanding, and appreciation of media content; and

• in the case of media developers, the ability to create effective and responsible media messages.

Source: Silverblatt, A (2001) Media Literacy: Keys to Interpreting Media Messages. Westport, CT: Praeger