MEDIA LITERACY 101: II. Living in an Image Culture

Subject: Digital Literacy
Grade Level: All
Source: Cable in the Classroom

How do you know what you know? So much of what we know about life and about our world doesn’t come from first-hand experiences, but through mass media. More than ever, we use media to communicate with each other, share information, and build knowledge. Think about how you learn what the daily news is: you can watch TV or listen to the radio as you go to work. You can read the newspaper or go to a Web site. You can check a blog or have headlines delivered to your cell phone.

Media can be a good teacher, or a bad teacher. The question is: how do you tell the difference? Television, the Internet and new media provide a window on the world which allows us to see all the wonder and beauty of the planet. We can also see the ugliest human behaviors. Without guidelines or instructions about how to interpret written, spoken, and visual messages, children may be exposed to content that is confusing, frightening, or developmentally inappropriate.

Media literacy can help us interpret and make sense out of the thousands of messages that bombard us each day. We learn how to think about media and what questions to ask. And we arrive at our own judgments that can help us get the most out of media while mitigating any potentially negative effects.

That's why the United Nations, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Psychological Association, and other groups have called for media literacy instruction in school and at home. Parents, teachers, caregivers: we're all in this together.


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