Me, Myself, and Media Literacy

Oct 27, 2020

“I’ve got dollars to donuts that most people don’t even really know the definition of literacy. So how do you think they will know the meaning of media literacy?” A friend said to me. 


Mind Blown. Sure people know the definition of literacy. They have to, we use the term all the time. Sure people know the definition of literacy, but in the words of  Inigo Montoya, “ You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means.”

 I looked up the definition for clarity, and realized maybe I should define what media literacy is before I try to talk about its importance. When we talk about literacy we tend to talk about reading and writing but media literacy is more than reading and writing. The definition of media literacy as defined by the Aspen Media Literacy Leadership Institute is “The ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and create media in a variety of forms.”  The new generation has so much more to contend with than just reading and writing. People are now more than ever actively participating in the creation of media, so there is that much more information out there for people to be able to consume and understand. With all this information it becomes necessary to sharpen the tools that we use to analyze the media that comes across our screens every day. Whether it is a funny tik-tok video or a New York Times article, we have to understand that everything we see is designed to elicit a response.

I have a son named Trenton. Cute as a button and why wouldn’t he be? He’s my kid. Trenton is in the first grade and loves to play his switch and tablet, all of the time. I mean all of the time, like eating with it, falling asleep with it. When I was a kid we didn’t have anything near the things he has access to now. The most I could hope for was that my gameboy would last the trip, or that I could get access to the television so I could play my video games uninterrupted for an hour. That got me thinking. Am I hurting my child by allowing him access to all of these multimedia devices?  I mean, media is all around us. It is our social media feed, it’s the videos we watch, it’s the emojins we use, it’s the movies we watch, I mean it is everywhere. These children will have to contend with a world that reading and writing the written word is not enough. They have to have a language that speaks to them in many different ways. It is for that very reason it is important to teach them and have an understanding ourselves, as adults, of media literacy and the components that make it up. Having the ability to analyze and evaluate what they are seeing and being exposed to are two parts of it, but the other parts are more about having access and being able to create their own media and spur action to engage our community. 

I am glad I have the ability to help him understand what he is watching and how to know what is real.  Teaching media literacy is not a political thing although many people would try and make that argument. Teaching and talking about media literacy is a necessary component of growing healthy, happy and well adjusted kids these days. They are bombarded daily on youtube, facebook, and other social media platforms by people pushing their agendas. It seems only right that we arm our children and ourselves with the proper knowledge to understand what it is that we are seeing on a daily basis. Some basic tips for media literacy are easy and just take practice., All parents can begin to reinforce their children’s active knowledge of media literacy by discussing a few things.

  1. Is the source trustworthy? A discussion about who is trustworthy sets the tone for the conversation. Why is the source trustworthy, or why not?
  2. Acknowledging your own implicit bias. Understanding that you have bias and that it affects your decisions is an important part of the process.
  3. Keep in mind that all media is designed to influence and illicit a response. Rather it is fear, joy, or outrage all media has been designed to get you to do something.


Media Literacy takes practice just like you had to practice early on when learning to read and write, you have to continue to practice the skills that make you media literate. Something as simple as questioning the motivation for the characters being portrayed or even the setting and locations used in an advertisement all play a part in the creators design to get a response from you. Questioning what are the desired results of the piece is necessary. If you are interested in learning more about media literacy we have some interesting and informative virtual screenings the week of October 26, which marks the beginning of media literacy week. We welcome you to view our selections and join the conversation. Check our virtual screening room for details.