Empowering Kids through Media Literacy
By Sarah Moore
As kids engage more and more with various media online, it becomes incredibly important for both parents and kids to be media literate. From videos to social media to advertisements, everything is designed to capture the consumer’s attention. Media literacy is the ability to understand how and why the media can influence us. Having media literacy empowers kids because it enables them to decide for themselves how much of an influence media will have over them. Kids can develop media literacy by developing skills such as:
• Critical Thinking: The ability to step back and ask what an advertisement is doing and how it is doing it naturally creates a distance that reduces the subconscious influence of most advertisements.
• Deconstruction: Taking apart an advertisement and looking at its individual parts lessens the overall power of the intended message.
• Self-worth: As an understanding on their own self-worth grows, kids (and adults!) are less likely to be influenced by the many advertisements that use aspirational characters.
Developing these skills takes practice, practice, and more practice! We’ve developed a series of short interactive lessons that can be done alone or with a parent or teacher to help kids become more media literate (you can find our Kids Page here). These lessons do this through:
• Repetition: Each lessons has a set of three similar advertisements to work through, thus reinforcing the ideas being taught.
• Discussion Questions: Certain aspects of the advertisements are highlighted with accompanying questions. These can be used as prompts to start a discussion between kids and their parent or teacher, or kids can click on the suggested answers for self-guidance.
• Specific Tools: Each lessons tries to teach specific tools that can be used later to deconstruct other advertisements kids may encounter in their day-to-day life. These range from things as fundamental as design elements to ideas as difficult as aspirational characters.
Hopefully after enough practice kids—and the adults doing the lessons with them—will begin to automatically analyze the media they encounter everyday. Developing a habit of medial literacy will protect kids from unwanted influences and allow them do decide who they want to be for themselves.
Check out our Kids Page and keep an eye out for our upcoming book, Petra’s Power to See, A Media Literacy Adventure, coming out this fall.