How To Teach Media Literacy To Kids


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We live in an outstandingly media-rich world. From awakening to our smartphones to working on our computers and falling asleep with our televisions, no wonder we see thousands of ads every day. We also heard statistics on the number of hours children spend watching television, on studies linking video games to violent behaviours, and worried about how these incredibly skinny magazine models influence children’s self-image.

Aside from that, we are often bombarded with fake news, advertising, and misinformation.

As adults, we may identify the wrongs and the sort of influence, but kids may not. According to the American Academy of Paediatrics, young children are “cognitively helpless” against publicity. As a result, some educators have decided to address media influence concerns by including lessons on “media literacy” into the K-12 curriculum in the recent past. Also, many educators and researchers stated that it is pertinent for parents to teach their kids how to become critical consumers of media, i.e., ‘media literate,’ mainly because media is here to stay. The question is, besides limiting their media consumption, what is the output?

Addressing the same concern, we explain here ‘Media Literacy’, we offer a few tips and strategies for your children to be media literate.

What Is Media Literacy?

Common Sense Media, a not-for-profit organization that provides media and technology education to families and educators, defines ‘media literacy’ as identifying different media types and understanding the types of messages they are sending.

In addition to traditional media, children often consume other forms of media like text messages, memes, and viral videos in social media, video games, and advertising. Media literacy is about helping children identify these various types of media and recognizing that someone created the messages for a reason. Learning these reasons and motives is a foundation for media literacy.

Why Teach Media Literacy?

  • Acknowledge the point of view — Those who create media have a purpose and perspective. Whether that view is clear or questionable, recognizing it enables students to question and contextualize the information they receive. 
  • Improve critical thinking skills – Media assessment through classroom or takeaway exercises encourages students to determine if the messages are accurate, using examples to justify their thoughts. 
  • Learn how to create different products – Many media literacy activities allow students to learn through practice and study and create various products, from print ads to TV scenarios. 
  • Bringing relevance to different subjects — Media education lessons can be a catalyst for interdisciplinary teaching, underscoring the relevance of different subjects. For example, your students might consider the power of certain colors in ads, applying key takeaways to art classes as they make their logos. 
  • Link existing content to students’ interests — You can make curriculum content more attractive by linking it to students’ preferred media. For instance, if they are not receptive to learning about intrigue devices, examine them through the lens of a famous film. Then find out how efficiently the film uses the devices. 

How to teach media literacy?

Below are a few recommendations that you must teach your kids:

To Recognize Fake News

According to a study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), false news spreads faster, farther, and more profound than real news on Twitter. So, teaching kids to identify the authenticity of the information is crucial. You should teach them to read past the headline, check the date and author credentials, gauge the tone and language, and identify biases. Though it will be time-consuming, ultimately, it will save time as they will not have to double-check the information or correct their views later on. 

Have them quickly look up at least one other source that says the same thing. Most news, especially major news, is covered by more than one organization, which should fairly indicate credibility.

Alternatively, have them follow several news channels on Twitter and see how many sources report the same information, compare headlines phrased differently for the same story, and quickly navigate between full article and feed. Make sure they don’t read a false story that has become viral.

For better understanding, you can assign projects of designing a newspaper that features either real or fake news, or some combination of both, and have other students see if they can identify each type.

Gauging Tone and Language

There is a difference between credible and not credible language, be it written or spoken. Train students to develop an “ear” for it. People are likely to believe the information they encounter when they are lying in a language that seems flowery or academic.

This means that we must ensure that the students themselves are good writers and lecturers and teach them as early as possible that clear communication-no fanciful or abstract language—should be their number one objective. That way, when a politician blows the wind through a camera, he will be able to say it.

You can also introduce them to read examples of different tones and re-create them in writing exercises.

 Question Numbers and Figures

When evaluating words, we frequently need to evaluate the numbers as well.

For example, you come across an article stating that “students are more successful at school when they review the lesson twice” and share it through Facebook, but when you look closer to the study quoted, you may find that it was performed only at one school, in one class, on three students; which is not enough to believe. We must learn to judge the math behind the message. You must check if the claims made have some infographics to illustrate numbers. Also, have students create infographics and teach them to catch misleading facts and figures. Then discuss how false figures influence our perception and lead us to believe some messages over others. Try creating one in the style of this Planet Earth Infographic.

Understand Images and the Brain

Visual media has a tremendous impact on consumers. This is because a considerable part of the brain is devoted to visual processing. It is known as the visual cortex, which affects our attention, motivation, and even emotions. Students should understand the power of imagery in the media.

Francis Davis J, an adult educator, and media education specialist, suggests reading images on at least two levels: first, the immediate emotional level to which we respond in a way that “draws on our feelings or inner stories”; secondly, as products intended to influence us in that way. Once you develop skills for recognition, you can more easily control whether they touch you or not. In addition, the book Rise of the Image Culture, written by Elizabeth Thoman, emphasizes that the images of perfect people living a perfect life have “become a substitute for the meanings that other generations sought in a larger and more meaningful way.” Let’s teach students to think on their own.

Have students create “powerful” but misleading posters with mismatched images and text. Moreover, check how many students believe the text, buy the visual product, and discuss similar examples they may have seen online, TV, print, or advertisements around town.

 Develop Multimedia Skills

In this highly media-savvy world, having sound knowledge of using different types of tools, both separately and together. We have text, audio, video, augmented reality, 3D printing, social media, interactive media, books, newspapers, films, and TV. Blogs and vlogs as well. Students need to be well versed in all of these to navigate the world ahead.

There is a dire need to prepare students to develop media forms. You can introduce Canva, which helps students create websites with a unique URL. Have them practice putting presentations together and sharing them on social media channels. They can also embed videos and links to other web pages in their presentations, which you can read more about here.

For instance, students can practice honing their multi-media skills.

To Recognize Bias

Teach students to recognize which channels might highlight which kinds of facts, emphasize specific contexts or angles, and use different tones. In real-time, you should teach kids to recognize their own biases, influencing their perceptions of the media. The biases can be either personal or political. In such cases, you can ask students to evaluate a few sources that exemplify these types of bias and then write a report on recognizing bias in the media. Possible sources might include articles, blog posts, excerpts from books, speeches, podcasts, radio or TV programs, posters, commercials, and more.

Teach Questioning Ads

You must teach students to question what an ad tells them. You may share Unattainable Beauty or “The Photoshop Effect” with them. These resources are more appropriate for older students, and they will let them understand that almost every photo in magazines and ads are digitally altered. They must be able to recognize false representations of reality. Have your kids examine different popular TV shows and discuss how different groups of people are portrayed. How do the shows stereotype certain people? What groups are marginalized or absent? Also, teach them to recognize advertisements’ illogical subtexts that often deprive them of power. This will help understand the reality of ads and safeguard them from bad influences. Aside from these, also Encourage students to “spell out” the promises, threats, or pleas made in commercials.

Reinforce Family Values

While discussing current events and other issues with your kids, bring your own family’s values into the conversation. You should see filter what your kids see and read through the values you have chosen for your family. Also, how do your values impact your response to information in the media?

Teach What Makes News Newsy

Provide your kids with a good insight into the 24/7 news cycle and the values of the news. Though, such things are not known to the average parent knows.

The media selects news according to what they think their audience wants or needs to know the most. In order to determine this, they use a combination of the following:

  • Timeliness – current events/information
  • Proximity – it occurs nearby
  • Relevance – it impacts you
  • Prominence – it involves known people
  • Human Interest – it tugs on the heartstrings in some way 
  • Conflict and controversy – the tension between the two parties or opinions attracts you. 

The information values have not changed much over the years, but the Internet makes information a company 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The daily pressure on the media to provide accurate and timely information may compromise the search and verification of facts, even among credible sources of information. 

Stay Involved

The National Association for Media Literacy Education warns parents not to stop regulating their children’s media consumption by the time they turn 15. Tweens and teens naturally start to seek independence and find their own identities during these years, but media should not be the only voice telling our kids who they want to be.

Many online images do not give youth a healthy or realistic pattern, and parents can express reality and reason.

Teach to think before they click and share

Robin Terry Brown, author of “Breaking the News: What is Real, What is Not, and Why the Difference Matters.” says there are several things parents can teach their children, one of them is to teach them to stop and think before they click on a link. Several studies have found that people are more likely to click on a title or share a post if it makes them happy, angry or excited. Moreover, young people are among the most likely to read clickbait.

Parents can instruct kids to stop, take a breath and consider why a particular headline makes them feel a strong, knee-jerk reaction at the moment.

They should ask themselves if the source influences people’s emotions, such as fear, anger, and hope, without presenting any facts to support the allegations. Encourage students to search for signs of misinformation by questioning the credibility of the information, then click.

Consume media with them

A classic parental experience is sitting beside your child, reading a book together, watching TV, probing the words, and commenting on the images and developments of the plot. . It is better to prepare and support kids rather than just handing them a device and walking away.

Instead of instructing them on the do’s and don’ts of media forms, you should talk to them about the contents they enjoy consuming. Comments on the stuff you watch together, like ‘portrayal of a scene.’ It is also recommended to teach them how to play their new favorite online game or explain what is happening in a show.

 Foster critical conversations

Critical thinking and media education go hand in hand, so you should promote these crucial analytical skills in their everyday lives.

In this media-saturated world, parents must create ample spaces for talking about the texts and images surrounding them as the first step in helping them consume what they view, read, and hear critically. You can begin work with media texts kids are interested in exploring and discussing. Have the kids talk about what they’re looking at; they are reading and listening to understand how media texts affect their understanding of the world around them.

Furthermore, encourage kids to talk about how things they see and listen to make them feel ― whether a social media post or a news video on television. Talk about times they might have seen something they thought was real but later discovered it was fake.

Model media literacy

Amidst all, it is necessary to model media literacy. As with other skills, kids can learn media literacy by hearing what their parents explain to them and observing their parents’ doing.

As parents, you must show that you are interested in finding factual news and information. Also, a model that you can be skeptical about without becoming cynical. It is also recommended to model healthy relationships with news media by being mindful of how often they are tuning in, especially if they are prone to constantly refreshing Twitter or keeping cable news on all day.

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