The Importance of Media Literacy

Media Literacy

Awareness of the media and its intentions is key when navigating the world of advertisements. We live in a materialistic world after all, and although people don’t see it, the media is setting agendas and planning ahead according to the world’s occurrences. Part of me feels like every college student should be required to take media literacy classes because without being aware of the media’s deceitful tactics, how can one know when the media is manipulating the story and framing according to its own agenda? Simply put, media literacy allows people to become more aware and knowledgeable of unintended and intended messages.

Children are an important group to recognize when talking about media literacy because they are the most vulnerable group when it comes to succumbing to brands’ sly advertising and marketing tactics.

Increasingly younger children are being exposed to the media and its messages. Common Sense Media found that 52 percent of 5- to 8-year-olds have used some form of mobile media. Similarly, a report by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that children spend more time with various media (an average of 7 hours per day) than they do in any other daily activity, besides sleeping (Ladner).

The fact that media is becoming a more prominent force in young children’s lives means that it is even more important for their elders to teach them what it means to be media literate, and to practice what they preach in the process. Luckily, public officials noticed the media’s manipulative tendencies and are taking strides to improve the public’s overall awareness of the media and to emphasize why it’s crucial to logically filter all media ventures.

According to Mast Media, State Senator Marko Liias of Washington introduced a bill in January that “calls for each school district statewide to determine the best course of action to help students, parents and guardians learn how to use media intelligently and effectively.” Instead of referring to textbook definitions of digital citizenship and media literacy, Liias described the often misunderstood terms in regards to their effects on students.

“They’re both about empowering our students to be good consumers of information,” he said. “It’s about gaining the ability to access good information and evaluate the information they receive and then use the information they’ve obtained, whether that’s online, in print or on T.V.”

When talking about young adults, by becoming more media literate, they can be protected from the pressures of advertising and other media endeavors to smoke, drink, use drugs, have sex, or eat unhealthy foods (Too Smart). As a young adult myself, I have definitely noticed a shift in my perspectives of the media since taking college journalism classes. I now realize that the media is a far more influential force than people realize, and that it’s critical to analyze the intentions behind a particular media message.

Although media literacy does not come naturally, people have the most powerful resource at their fingertips: the Internet. Read news from various news outlets. Recognize biases. Don’t let the media weave its construed ideologies into your mind. Have your own thoughts and opinions, and use those original ideas to filter what you read and see. More importantly: spread the word. You’d be surprised how many people are willing to accept a message just because someone on TV said it. The media knows what it’s doing; it’s time for people to take control of their minds and prove to the media that we are not robots, but rather intelligent, well-rounded individuals who will only believe what is supported by facts, not biased opinions and viewpoints.