When we talk about ‘literacy,’ we refer to the ability to read and write. That is the standard definition, after all. However, media literacy is a term that has been circulating for some time. Its importance is being observed worldwide, and active measures are being taken to equip today’s youth with media literacy. But what is it exactly? And why is it so important? Moreover, why the sudden need for such literacy?

Here we’ll answer all these questions and more, so keep on reading.

What Is Media Literacy?

For people unfamiliar with this term, it can seem perplexing. You might know the separate meanings of the words ‘media’ or ‘literacy’ but probably haven’t seen them being used alongside each other. But, before we dig into the definition of this term, stop and ask yourself this question: how much of the media that you consume is factual? We must be careful to use the various channels at our disposal responsibly given that they occupy a significant portion of our time.

For those who don’t know what media literacy is, it is the capacity to analyze what you are hearing, reading, and seeing objectively. It facilitates the analysis of data from a range of perspectives. With so many information sources available today, the ability to think critically can aid in sifting through the clutter to discover the facts and identify trustworthy sources.

For instance, we might be better at spotting false news or comprehending why some products receive more marketing attention than others, such as on Instagram or Facebook. We can also observe that content published frequently has a purpose, such as advancing an institution’s political viewpoint or encouraging a user to make an unnecessary purchase.

The importance of such literacy is becoming more prominent worldwide, especially in protecting the younger generation. Kids today consume a massive amount of information, not just from conventional sources such as television, radio, magazines, and newspapers but also from other sources such as video games, social media, memes, text messages, and advertising.

However, all forms have one thing in common: they were all made by someone, which means it was also developed for a purpose. The foundation of media literacy is comprehending that purpose and acting towards or against it.

Why Is Media Literacy Important?

Understanding how to comprehend and examine media content is essential for media literacy. A person will find it much harder to use media efficiently if they cannot distinguish between what is false and what is true. Everybody needs to be aware of their media literacy level because it is crucial for the consumer.

The public’s views, attitudes, and actions can be influenced by society, which frequently contributes to the formation of contemporary culture. These outcomes can also strengthen preexisting ideas, for better or worse. Consuming media can lead to significant changes, no matter how minor. Hence, media literacy should be developed to prevent drastic or dangerous changes that can affect our society.

Children are rarely taught to be mindful of what they’re consuming from their screens. These same children can grow up to be active participants in society. If not properly taught, they’ll perpetuate the illiteracy of the media, which can only make our society go downhill. Below, we have discussed some ways media literacy can help children and our society.

1. Recognize Viewpoints

Every creator has a unique viewpoint. Children learn to accept many viewpoints by recognizing the viewpoint of the author. Additionally, it aids in contextualizing information in light of what individuals already know—or believe they know.

We can guard against any bad effects of using media by exercising media literacy and challenging its purposes. We must teach our children not to get carried away by every perspective they see in the news.

It’s good to be exposed to various opinions. Still, children should also develop critical thinking abilities to decide which side they’re on or what individual perspective they have developed on their own. What is the creator hoping you will learn from a particular form of media?

Is it merely educational, attempting to sway your opinion, or exposing you to novel concepts you haven’t heard of? Are they using subtle ways to promote something that might not be obvious? For instance, by using certain colours in posts to convey a certain message. Or is particular wording being used to facilitate subservience?

Children will make wise decisions when they are aware of the impact that social media can have on our viewpoints.

2. Creating Responsibly

With so many channels available, we may easily create our own media nowadays. Blog articles, YouTube videos, social media uploads, and podcasts are how we can participate in the media world. However, effective communication can only be achieved by knowing your perspective, expressing it in the way you wish to, and realizing the power of your words.

If you have a solid grasp of media literacy, you’ll be able to produce content online with the best intentions and contribute to the abundance of beneficial media already available on the internet. You may also employ channels to inform people about the value of such literacy. As well as this, you can improve your media literacy abilities by producing your own media.

3. Avoiding Misinformation

With the abundance of information available on the internet today, it only makes sense that a lot of it can turn out to be fake. But, an average person who is not media literate or children who are easily swayed can consider fake news to be something credible.

Such literacy allows children to learn whether a piece of information is coming from a genuine source or not. If this is not done, they’ll end up spreading it further, and as a result, misinformation will thrive and terrorize or anger society.

The media influences our decisions and opinions, whether about the economy, political atmosphere, healthcare, or current affairs. Naturally, we don’t want such fundamental notions and ideologies to be based on lies.

Moreover, social media creators, news writers, advertisers, and other people who hold the key to distributing videos, articles, and pictures often choose to spread misinformation, intentionally or unintentionally, in order to capture the public’s attention. Hence, children should be taught to recognize such patterns and resist the persuasive attitude of media creators if they wish to become smart consumers.

4. Promotes Collaboration

One of the most underrated advantages of such literacy is the promotion and encouragement of active collaboration. The process of creating media helps creators and artists to express themselves and their views. It also helps consumers and viewers to experience the world through the creator’s eyes.

Besides its obvious benefits, media literacy also helps society at large. It fosters the necessary skills and abilities that encourage people to work together in collaboration. How so? Becasue media literacy promotes respectful discourse and helps develop citizenship skills.

5. Encourages Self-discovery

More than the technical skills and varied knowledge that the youth can learn from the media, what makes media literacy so important for young people is its aid in self-discovery. When young people come across any issue in the media, they have to face their own biases and feelings about that particular topic. It can be an empowering process where young people get to know more about themselves and what their priorities are.

Adolescence and the young-adult years can be rocky. It is the time when people become who they want to be. It is also when they have a lot to figure out in terms of their career and individuality. The media can both aid or compromise such a process. However, if a young person is media literate, they will be smart enough to only extract the good from it and base their opinions around that.

Final Thoughts

We’re presently living in a media blizzard where we are constantly bombarded online, whether we like it or not. However, to cut through the noise and identify what matters, media literacy has become a great tool to equip today’s youth with the necessary knowledge. In a post-pandemic and media-led society, understanding this impact is more important than ever before.