Thanks to modern technology, we have a wealth of information at our fingertips. From news articles to social media, online databases, blogs, and more, there are endless opportunities to engage with and learn from media. Students are also doing this more and more, with recent studies finding “a 17 percent increase in screen use among teens and tweens in the last two years—more than in the four years prior.”
Unfortunately, with all of that information comes misinformation, propaganda, and other harmful media. That’s why media literacy is a crucial skill in today’s world. Here’s what media literacy encompasses, the skills associated with being media literate, and why it’s a critical part of modern education.
What Is Media Literacy?
Media literacy is the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and create media in various forms. Any media literacy definition depicts an umbrella concept that encompasses a wide range of skills and competencies, including critical thinking, effective communication, and creative expression. Aspects of media literacy include, but are not limited to:
- Feeling comfortable with all existing media from newspapers to virtual communities
- Actively using media through, for example, interactive television, use of internet search engines or participation in virtual communities
- Better exploiting the potential of media for entertainment, access to culture, intercultural dialogue, learning and daily-life applications (for instance, through libraries, podcasts)
- Having a critical approach to media as regards both quality and accuracy of content (for example, being able to assess information, dealing with advertising on various media, using search engines intelligently)
- Using media creatively
- Understanding the media economy
- Being aware of copyright issues which are essential for a ‘culture of legality’, especially for the younger generation in its double capacity of consumers and producers of content
Media literacy is essential in today's world, where media is pervasive and constantly evolving, and where people consume and share information at unprecedented rates. Being able to evaluate and analyze media allows people to be more informed media consumers that can spot fake news and misinformation.
Media Literacy Skills
Media literacy skills are essential for anyone who consumes or creates media. The ability to critically analyze media content allows individuals to distinguish between fact and fiction, identify bias and propaganda, and evaluate sources for accuracy and reliability. It also helps individuals understand the ways in which media content is constructed and the messages it conveys.
Communication skills are also part of media literacy. They have become particularly important as content creation becomes more ingrained in daily life, thanks to the ubiquity of social media and the speed and convenience of sharing due to technological advancements. The ability to communicate effectively through various media platforms, such as social media, is critical for individuals to share their own perspectives, express their opinions, and engage with others in meaningful discussions.
Finally, with AI, machine learning, and other technologies being increasingly employed in media creation, delivery, and filtering, some educators have argued for the inclusion of technological knowledge in media literacy teaching. “Intertwining media literacy education with computing education,” write authors Valtonen et al., can “improve students’ readiness to cope with modern media and to become critical and skilled actors to navigate in today's media landscape.”
The Importance of Media Literacy Education
With its broad scope, media literacy covers a lot of ground, but each of its concepts is crucial for modern students who are growing up in an increasingly media-saturated world. Media literacy education provides young people with the skills and knowledge they need to navigate a complex media landscape, and to make informed decisions about the media they consume and create. This kind of education is vital for helping students make informed decisions in daily life.
That’s why our educational product, THINKING PRO, is designed to empower students with thinking tools that, in the long-term, help them lead successful lives and contribute to the wellbeing of their community. THINKING PRO is a school curriculum that uses local news media as a tool to teach critical thinking, reading, and communication skills in a student-centric, teacher-supported learning environment. Thinking Habitats is “where thinking comes to life,” a place where meaningful personal, civic, and professional skills are acquired.
Through online resources like THINKING PRO, as well as community-based programs and formal education, media literacy brings numerous benefits. For one, it helps develop a more informed and engaged citizenry. When individuals are able to critically analyze media content, they are better equipped to make informed decisions about political and social issues, and to engage in meaningful discussions with others.
Media literacy education also helps to promote responsible media use. When individuals understand the impact that media content can have on themselves and others, they are better equipped to make responsible decisions about the media they consume and create. This can help to reduce the spread of false information, hate speech, and other harmful media content.
Learning media literacy also promotes creative expression in students’ lives. When individuals are able to create media content that is engaging, informative, and responsible, they are better equipped to express themselves creatively and to connect with others who share their interests and passions. This can help foster a more diverse and inclusive media landscape.
While the benefits of media literacy education are vast, there are challenges to implementing it effectively. One challenge is the rapid pace of technological change, which means that media literacy skills must be continually updated and adapted to new technologies and platforms. Another challenge is the limited resources available for media literacy education, particularly in low-income communities where access to technology and educational resources may be limited.
To address these challenges, it is important to promote media literacy education at all levels of society, from schools and universities to community-based organizations and online resources. This ensures that individuals of all ages and backgrounds have access to the knowledge they need to participate in a media-rich society in a responsible and informed way. THINKING PRO can meet those needs and introduce rich, locally rooted, and efficient media literacy education in your classroom today!
Here at Thinking Habitats, we use thinking tools to empower young people to lead successful lives and contribute to the wellbeing of their communities. Our online platform has helped students improve their critical thinking, reading comprehension, and news media literacy, and has had significant individual and community impacts. Try THINKING PRO today, and join our students who feel more empowered in decision-making, more mindful with their news engagement, and more connected to their local community!
5 tips for responsible social media usage. On Our Sleeves. (2021, July). Retrieved April 17, 2023, from https://www.onoursleeves.org/mental-health-resources/articles-support/school/tips-responsible-social-media
Moyer, M. W. (2022, March 24). Kids as young as 8 are using social media more than ever, study finds. The New York Times. Retrieved April 17, 2023, from https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/24/well/family/child-social-media-use.html
Valtonen, T., Tedre, M., Mäkitalo, K. A., & Vartiainen, H. (2019). Media Literacy Education in the age of machine learning. Journal of Media Literacy Education, 11(2), 20–36. https://doi.org/10.23860/jmle-2019-11-2-2