| What is media literacy?

Media literacy is the ability to "read" messages in the media (TV, movies, advertisements, the internet, video and online games) and ask questions about these messages.

Media literacy helps us understand how media messages shape attitudes and behaviors.

Key Concepts of Media Literacy:

  • Media messages are created by people.
  • Media messages have their own values and beliefs.
  • Each media form has its very own language.
  • Different people experience the same media message in different ways.

Media Literacy and Your Child:

According to a recent study conducted by the Kaiser Foundation, each week kids spend the equivalent of a full-time workweek interacting with media.

  • Because media surrounds them, children must learn to question and evaluate media content in order to create their own understanding of what they're watching and seeing.
  • Media literacy skills allow kids to approach media as careful users and critical thinkers.

Some tips for helping your child become media literate:

  • Make media time a family time: Whether watching TV or playing an online game, share as many of your child's media experiences as possible.
  • Treat media time like any other scheduled activity by carefully selecting times and choices in advance.
  • Create media time limits.
  • Discuss media moments with your child.
  • Encourage your family to consider all aspects of media content: words, characters, sound and visual effects. How do these elements influence the overall message?

What is this message trying to say?

  • The true meaning of a media message is not always obvious. Ask your child who they think might have created this message and what ideas they were trying to express.
  • Share your opinions about themes, storylines and characters in a non-threatening way.
  • Encourage your children to question the things they see on television and form their own opinions.
  • Help children understand that media is not reality
  • Explain how media content (even the news, documentaries, and reality shows) has been interpreted by producers, directors, writers, actors, editors, advertisers and others. The beliefs, opinions and attitudes of all of these people shape the end message. Talk about whether popular media characters look and act like real people.

Speak Up!

  • Through letters, emails and phone calls, you can provide constructive feedback to those who create media and set media guidelines.
  • Encourage your children to do the same.
  • Support companies that share your values and beliefs.
  • Support media education in your local schools and libraries.