"Media affects me daily. Sometimes in ways I don't even realize. It affects me this way because it is everywhere around me and I can't get away from it." - Mckenzie, Age 16
What is this thing we call MEDIA?
Media are different forms of communication and expression. TV, movies, video games, advertisements, art, internet, and telephone (among others) are all different forms of media.
What is media education and why is it important?
Media education (or media literacy) is the process of teaching people how to read, interpret and think critically about the thousands of messages we receive from media like TV, radio, internet and movies.
It is important for teens and adults to be media educated (literate) so they can recognize the difference between what's real and what's fake in the media. A key part in this process is learning how to question the information presented by the media. Doing this allows you to make your own decision about the information you are perceiving instead of allowing yourself to believe everything presented.
How do we read media?
We read media by actively analyzing it instead of passively accepting all that it feeds us. You wouldn't eat a Happy Meal someone gave you off of the street, would you? You would want to know what was in it and if it was old or tampered with. Once you found out more information about the food you could then make an informed decision about whether the benefits of eating the food out weigh the risk of getting sick from it. The same idea applies to taking in the media. Try to ask the following questions:
- Who is sending the message (who is the producer/author)?
Who is the person/s (or company) behind the creation of the media message? If a movie is produced or financed by one company then their experience and interests will be reflected in that movie.
- Who is the message targeted for (who is the target audience)?
What audience are the producers trying to reach? Is it adults, teenagers, children, parents? Is the intended audience a certain race, class or sex? Most teens don't like to watch CNN because it is not intended for them. The target audience for CNN is middle-upper class people over the age of 50. However, MTV is popular among younger people because the whole show is catered toward their interests.
- What is the message?
Underneath the rhythm and beat of a song and the fantasy of a movie, there is a message: a point or opinion that the creators are trying to get across. Is it one that you agree with? Does it support or reject certain behaviors and beliefs, like violence, sexism or stereotypes? What does the message say about you and your community?
- Why are they sending this message (what's the purpose)?
From the logo of a sports team to your favorite video game, every media message has a purpose. Some messages have only one purpose while others have many. Here are all the purposes any given message will have.
- To persuade or sell a product or idea (an advertisement)
- To educate or inform the viewer of factual information or a recent occurrence (the newspaper)
- To entertain (a movie)
- To express a point of view or opinion(a painting)
Don't like what you see in the media? Then, make a change!
The first step in changing the media is to learn about it. Ask questions about what you see, don't blindly take it all in. We all need to learn how to read the media like you read a book. (There is no point in opening a book if you're not going to try to understand what's inside of it.)
"Media affects me because it's always there, and it's the man. It subconsciously gets in my head and I act unknowingly on it." - Shari, Age 16