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In our media-saturated world, being literate requires mastering a set of skills beyond reading and writing. Engaging with media can certainly improve core literacy skills, but being able to analyze, understand, and evaluate media is an essential next step in becoming a critical thinker.
The Center for Media Literacy originally defined media literacy as “the ability to access, analyze, evaluate and create media in a variety of forms” but also acknowledges that the definition is changing over time. Because everyone and anyone can create and publish content, media literacy is an educational imitative to help children navigate media, practice analytical skills, and creative content using books, videos, blogs, news websites, social media, and more.
As soon as children begin consuming media, media literacy is a powerful tool to help improve comprehension and deepen their learning experience.
The foundation of teaching young children about media literacy is helping them understand that all the media they see, hear, or explore with a click is information. They can use this information to better understand the world around them.
For example, with nature or educational kid shows, you can have a discussion that compares and contrasts what they learn by watching the show versus what they have learned in their day-to-day lives. Asking questions that have them process and summarize the information they’ve consumed, like:
Elementary school students learn in school through a variety of media like films, YouTube videos, books, news broadcasts, and presentations. In their personal lives, they may also consume additional media like television programs, YouTube videos, and social media. As parents, we can help our kids learn they shouldn’t rely on a single source of information. Model how you balance different sources to understand new terms and ideas, learn new skills, or explore the world. As you teach your children to use more than one source, talk about the sources, and compare and contrast their value and clarity to strengthen the learning process. These analytical and information-gathering skills will lay the groundwork for a more in-depth analysis of source materials.
Kids entering middle school are less likely to ask for a parental opinion before conducting their own online investigation into a topic or current event. They’re rapidly developing independent ideas and shaping their own unique worldview. Media literacy (or the lack of it) plays an impactful role in developing their identities.
Media literacy is an essential part of teens maturing into young adults. Learning to distinguish between credible and incredible sources can help us gain the confidence to voice our opinions and back them up with evidence.
Media literacy can be an effective tool to help our kids think and grow into intelligent citizens of the world. As they deepen their skills, continue to guide them to age-appropriate content that will empower them and fuel their curiosity. Understanding how to find and evaluate information is a big step in becoming a lifelong learner.