What is Media Literacy?

Media literacy asks who created a media message and why. It examines through deconstruction how color, music, layout, motion, lighting, camera angles, and similar techniques affect a person’s perception and understanding of the content being presented to them. And it considers what or who is included and excluded. Acquiring media literacy skills means being able to think critically about and evaluate more fully what’s being presented or the media you’re creating.

A father showing a child to use a laptop

Words to Know

Media

Any means of communication that reaches or influences people. For example: television, radio, social media, the Internet, video, newspapers, magazines, and advertising.

Media Message

Any piece of media that transmits a message to an audience, such as a TV show, web page, news story, advertisement, or social media post.

Literacy

The ability to read, understand, or have the knowledge of a subject or field.

(De)construction

To take something apart, give a thorough examination of something (an idea, an object, a piece of text), and by studying its constituent parts, gain a deeper understanding of the whole.

Media (De)construction Tips

Core Concepts about Media

Whether it’s a short film, collage, flyer, song, or Facebook post, think about:

  1. All media messages are constructed.
  2. Media messages are constructed using a creative language with its own rules.
  3. Different people experience the same media message differently.
  4. Media have embedded values, opinions, and points of view.
  5. Most media messages are organized to gain profit and/or power.

Key Questions About Media

When interpreting media and evaluating media, always ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Who created this message? How do you know? Is he/she, are they credible?
  2. What creative techniques are used to attract my attention? How did they use colors, images, motion, text, design, lighting, or sound to create a mood or feeling?
  3. How might different people understand this message differently? Who is the target audience? How would someone else interpret it? (For example, a child versus an adult; a native versus an immigrant.)
  4. What values, lifestyles and points of view are represented in, or left out from, this message? Is this biased towards one side or the other?
  5. Why is this message being sent; what is its purpose? Was this created to inform, persuade, or entertain? How can you tell?

Resources

Explore an array of organizations offering advice and resources to help educators, parents and children learn about media literacy.

Center for Media Literacy

The Center for Media Literacy is the largest producer and distributor of media literacy resources in the U.S. Its site features a comprehensive online catalog of media literacy books and products, along with workshop information and a “reading room” of articles.  Learn More

Children Now

Child advocacy organization Children Now uses media as a tool to improve children’s lives. It releases reports on children’s issues and is a partner in the Talking with Kids website, which helps parents discuss tough issues with their youngsters.  Learn More

Common Sense Media

Common Sense Media is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization, that provides trustworthy reviews and ratings of media from a child development perspective, parenting tips about media management.  Learn More

Connect Safely

The Parent & Educator Guide to Media Literacy & Fake News.  Learn More

Cool Mom Tech

Cool Mom Tech is the intersection of tech and style, of parenting, and practicality. Check out their content on internet safety.  Learn More

Fatherly

Fatherly offers original reporting, expert parenting advice, and hard-won insights into a challenging, but profoundly rewarding stage of life. Check out their resources on screen time.  Learn More

Media Awareness Network

A Canadian site, the Media Awareness Network is full of media literacy information and activities for parents, teachers, and children.  Learn More

Media Literacy Clearinghouse

Created by noted media literacy authority Frank Baker, the Clearinghouse is a rich source of links for information and activities including articles, lesson plans, activities, and research findings.  Learn More

National Association for Media Literacy Education

NAMLE (formerly the Alliance for a Media Literate America) is a membership organization of media education practitioners. Its mission is to stimulate growth in media literacy education in the United States by providing national leadership, advocacy, networking, and information exchange.  Learn More

National PTA

The National PTA is the nation’s largest volunteer child advocacy organization and is a leader in helping parents learn about media and digital safety.  Learn More

Smart Talk

The Smart Talk gets parents and kids together to have a clear conversation about all the devices you use and how to be responsible.  Learn More

Information Literacy

A vast amount of information is instantly available to us and our children from online sources. Information literacy skills help us efficiently sift through, select, and thoughtfully use the ocean of information available at the touch of a button or tap of a screen.

Access to this information can add to our lives in ways that inform, educate and entertain. The downside to this seemingly endless availability of information is that it is often neither well organized nor curated. In other words, the information that can help enrich our lives and that of our children can be both a challenge to find and largely unchecked for quality and accuracy.

In response, information literacy skills are critical to knowing:

  1. How to search for and find the most relevant and appropriate information for you and your family
  2. How to manage information
  3. How to evaluate it for its quality and usefulness
  4. How to use information ethically, appropriately and effectively

Watch Videos

Resources

The following are good resources for helping teach your children about information literacy:

Big6

Big6 is a six-stage model to help anyone solve problems or make decisions by using information. Using the Big6 information literacy process, you will identify information research goals, seek, use, and assemble relevant, credible information, then to reflect— is the final product effective and was my process efficient.  Learn More

Information Literacy

The website supports teachers, researchers and parents with an interest in information and digital literacy by providing news, case studies, examples of best practice and freely available tool kits.  Learn More

Reading Rockets – Teaching Information Literacy Skills

Reading Rockets is a national multimedia literacy initiative offering information and resources on how young kids learn to read, why so many struggle, and how caring adults can help.  Learn More

S.O.S. for Information Literacy

S.O.S. for Information Literacy is a dynamic web-based multimedia resource that includes peer-reviewed lesson plans, handouts, presentations, videos and other resources to enhance the teaching of information literacy (K-16).  Learn More

In Case You Missed It

In Case You Missed It is a video series about the latest and greatest websites, apps and products to help you manage your kids online and media activities.

Are you using the same password over and over? You shouldn’t be!
Do you have a creative kid? Sure you do!