They first asked for my definition of media literacy, which is as follows: media literacy is the ability to understand what media is, its role in our lives, and the kinds of messages it sends. To teach media literacy is to deconstruct media, with an end goal of understanding it well enough to create one’s own messages.
I believe this is particularly important for our youth, who spend inordinate amounts of time online. I’ve heard adults discount youth by saying, “real life is not about likes and followers.” And yet for many of our young folks, it is. So let’s not discount that. Let’s understand that in order to get the likes and follows, first, they become content creators. They’re putting stuff out there that in many ways is very personal. They’re making themselves vulnerable. And why are likes and followers so important? What role is media playing in their lives, and what hole is it filling? As a mom of two teenagers and one young adult, these are things I’ve spent a great deal of time thinking about.
Then, let’s look at the sense of overwhelm and isolation this kind of media saturation can cause, with attendant skyrocketing rates of anxiety, depression and suicide among teenagers. With immediate and sometimes real-time access to atrocity and mayhem, it’s no wonder youth are overwhelmed (and they are not alone!) I want to take them all by the hand and say, “it’s OK to unplug sometimes. In fact, it’s critical for your health and survival.” And, relating back to media literacy, it’s important to understand how you’re being affected and shaped by the media you consume.
The questions I frequently ask myself are: what kinds of media help people develop personal narrative? What are the kinds of programs and services that will bring people together to share their stories, either solo or in a group setting? How can DMA help bridge that divide?
To that end, you’ll see some new video workshops online at davismedia.org. And you’ll see even more in the months to come, some taking on tough topics like digital privacy and fake news (I really want to teach a workshop called “You Won’t Believe What’s Behind this Headline! Clickbait, Fake News & Trolls.”) This is a big part of what media literacy looks like in the 21st century.
More to come!
Autumn Labbe-Renault, Executive Director