The need for media literacy
By Dante on April 3rd, 2012
Last week, Jessica began a conversation about literacy that extends beyond reading. She made the argument that kids need to be digitally literate, as well. I couldn’t agree more. But I want to push the conversation a bit further. Now, more than ever, is just as important (if not more so) for kids to be media literate as well as digitally literate.
It’s really easy to find a corner of the Internet that is reaffirming and comfortable and then never look beyond it. In the long run, this is a destuctive use of one of the great technological developments in human history. Opinions and declarations are posted on blogs and social networks, then shared among friends at the speed of a retweet, and few people take the time to verify the accuracy of what’s being shared and read. This allows poorly sourced and/or inaccurate information to enter the public record as fact — if everyone believes it, it must be true! — and from there more bad information is built on top of that original bad information, worse information on top of that, and so on. What makes this destructive, beyond the obvious, is that is shuts down our innate curiosity. Debate and deeper thinking about what we’re reading is discouraged, and we settle into an echo chamber of opinions and news items.
This is especially bad for kids. Kids are naturally inquisitive and love asking questions. Rather than discourage that as they get older and become digital citizens, it should be nurtured through media literacy development. By teaching them to rely on more than one source of information, to look beyond news bites and headline tickers and commercials, to utilize the power of the Internet to do their own research — to ask questions — we’re telling kids they have the right to wonder about the world around them and, more importantly, to be unique. This is the approach I take with the 60 Kid Reporters I’m responsible for as the editor of the Scholastic News Kids Press Corps. By being media literate, they’re becoming better journalists and are giving their readers better stories, interviews, and reviews. (Related: Check out the Kid Reporter Tips from the Pros collection of interviews with other journalists. Many of them discuss the importance of media literacy.) They’re also, I hope, becoming better people.
But media literacy does more than encourage individuality. It works together with basic and digital literacy to form a type of literacy continuum where one feeds into the other. So by being media literate, we become stronger readers and more agile digital users. Similarly, by being strong readers we become more media and digitally literate. Each form of literacy is important, but like a chemical bond, when they’re strongest when working together.
My experience with kids and media literacy is a little different than other, and I might be totally off base. So I’m curious what readers (and teachers) think about its importance. Do you think media literacy is important? How do you help kids become more media literate? Let us know in the comments.
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