What is Media Literacy?

Should Media be an Integral Part of a School Curriculum?

Media literacy is the ability to comprehend and produce messages in the media. This includes all different types of media, from written articles, to films, to advertisements on the television. Like conventional literacy, media literacy includes being able to recognize messages as well create them (in the same way as to be literate a person must be able to read and write). This critical thinking skill is essential in today's media world.

To be media literate is to be informed about and able to understand the content of all media forms. The skill has been recognized as important in the 21st Century - many schools now offer contemporary courses in 'Media Studies' which teaches young people this skill. Students are taught how to analyze and evaluate media messages in such courses.

Media literacy consists of 3 main stages. The first stage is for a person to become aware of all the media they consume in their day-to-day lives and manage this. They should limit the amount of time they spend reading newspapers, watching TV shows and playing video games to a sensible amount.

The second stage is to develop critical thinking - what message is this media trying to portray? What information may have been left out to produce the desired effect on the consumer? Thinking in depth about various media items will develop this skill. By analyzing and evaluating the media a person can develop a more rounded opinion on the subject being discussed and become less influenced by the media.

The final stage of media literacy is to consider who is creating the media we experience every day. Why are they producing the media? In most cases this is obvious - companies advertise their products to incise consumers to buy them, in order to maximize their profit. This proves very effective - it costs millions of pounds to broadcast an advert on prime time TV, but companies are willing to pay as the benefits outweigh this high cost. This shows just how much a simple advert can influence a nation on television viewers.

Being able to understand messages in the media helps protect vulnerable people. As people are influenced so much by media - even if this is often subconscious - it must be regulated. One example here is companies claiming to 'help' people who are in debt - lots of people will believe their claims, when in fact the companies may get them into more debt whilst they themselves profit. This is where regulators intervene to prevent false advertisement. Today, strict guidelines must be adhered to.

Media literacy is a vital skill to have to become more aware of the messages being communicated on a daily basis. Developing this ability can transform a passive relationship with the media into an active one. This is vital when considering children, who spend so much time watching television at an age where their brains are practically sponges ready to absorb information. People must begin to make good choices about media consumption habits, for themselves and their children.