Media Literacy for Today

Posted On December 1, 2008

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It has been clearly established that young people are engaging with the internet in many different ways. Communicating with peers, playing games and researching school projects are among the most common internet pastimes for school-age children. Young people have appropriated the internet and digital technology into the lives, but this cannot be taken for granted. Children’s use of digital technology brings with it some legitimate concerns. Too often parents assume the technological expertise of their children when they are not nearly as proficient as their parents believe them to be. Not all youth are technological prodigies and familiar with all of the ins and outs of digital technology.

            The danger of defining media literacy is that its porous nature makes its meaning difficult to pin down. With the media constantly in flux, its literacy can never be static. Therefore, parents assume their children are media literate, but in fact, they are usually unaware of the motives behind the websites and material they are using (Livingstone, 9). This is problematic because the majority of these young users are surfing the internet as a means to gather legitimate research information. Moral panics concerning overt hate speech aside, there is a real danger of youth stumbling upon cloaked racist websites when they are searching for civil rights information (Daniels, 140). For example, is a white supremacist website disguised to show up on a Google as a potentially trustworthy source. This is worrisome because the incompetence of children to detect the intention of the websites they are viewing might prevent some from realizing the racist nature of cloaked websites. With the 21 million youth hooked up to the internet in the United-States, the number of school children who could be influenced by this kind of material is staggering (Daniels, 130). Youth need to be taught to examine content more critically and to be aware of the way messages can be disguised by those who know how to manipulate others.

            Also, parents are quick to jump to gun on believing their child’s almost innate comfort around technology. This idea is entirely false, especially when considering young girls. As Mary Celeste Kearney explains, video production technology is an area that has been traditionally dominated by males and women/girls do not usually have the confidence to take control over production in the same way men have always felt entitled to (114). I think girls-only initiatives like Latinitas and It’s a She Shoot are important to give young girls the opportunity to learn about the media through producing their own content. This is an effective way in removing girls from the way the media has framed them as victims and placing them in a headspace where they feel they are able to accomplish making their own media productions as well as expressing gender-specific issues without feeling pressure from the opposite sex. Perhaps it would be a good idea for the girls from the Concordia Communication Department to start a similar kind of workshop for young girls in Montreal. Media literacy cannot be taken as something that is easy to acquire and it is important to know that equal opportunities are not available to everyone.

            At length, youth, especially girls, are often under informed when it comes to knowledge about the media and media production. Parents must avoid over generalizing their child’s capabilities and educators must teach students how to look the media and its intentions more critically. In a world where we are inundated with mediated images and content, this kind of information literacy seems paramount or we risk living in a world where the potential for youth to be misinformed and manipulated will only grow as technology becomes even more pervasive. In order to understand the media, you have to be as much a part of creating it as you are of consuming its messages.


2 Responses to “Media Literacy for Today”

  1. leslie

    Excellent post. And great idea re Con U work with young women in Mtl re media literacy. Check out the Atwater Library Digital Literacy Workshop for opportunities this way…

  2. leslie

    Good post! I love Seiter’s work. And indeed pop culture can be used as a way to motivate young people…and have them think critically.

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