By Anastasia Landeros
Media Literacy should be a required course throughout the United States’ education system so students can critically sort through all the information available to them.
Media literacy is knowing how to access, evaluate, analyze and create different forms of communication.
The decline of media literacy has caused a massive drop in empathy and has hindered society’s ability to grow.
The term “media” has been distorted in the past few years to become a blanket term for the news we see on television and read about in newspapers and magazines.
Media, in fact, includes everything from video games to email to social networking sites.
The news industry is part of media but media, is not exclusively news.
Any avenue used to communicate a message to someone else is considered media.
In today’s tech-savvy world, the majority of the population has no problem creating or accessing media.
Creating and accessing this media without evaluating and analyzing it, however, has caused people to misinterpret messages and spread false information.
The most recent incident of misinterpreted messages and circulating false information happened just after the mass shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Facebook and Twitter were rife with information about the man they thought was the shooter, even after it was confirmed to be another man.
Facebook, specifically, was filled with stories that reported multiple shooters across the strip, multiple shooters in the room with the actual shooter, connecting the attack to the 9/11 attacks and other unconfirmed theories and accounts.
Educators have the power to slow or even stop this negative social behavior by including media literacy in their curricula.
Mediasmarts.ca, Canada’s online Center for Digital and Media Literacy, says that the key to media literacy is asking thoughtful questions about the information being accessed.
Mediasmarts.ca suggests asking “Who is the media geared toward and why?” and “Whose point of view is the story being told from and how could different audiences interpret that same message?”
According to Mediasmarts.ca, these are important questions because “Media literacy – with critical thinking, reflection and ethical behavior at its core – is a key part of what it means to be educated in today’s world.”
Dr. Guo-Ming Chen, professor of Communication Studies at the University of Rhode Island, gives multiple reasons for the importance of media literacy education in his article “Media (Literacy) Education in the United States.”
Chen said that the media’s strong influence on shaping perceptions, beliefs and attitudes, its growing role in the spread of information, its impact on democratic processes, and the public’s constant media use are the most obvious reasons for media literacy education in the U.S.
With Facebook and Twitter as the most common news sources for teens and young adults, they should be taught how to recognize good sources from bad ones.
This skill will keep them from living within a digital echo chamber where they only learn about their preferred side of any story.
Teachers are the best choice for pointing students in the right direction while navigating the hundreds of sources available to them.
In the article “Making a Case for Media Literacy in the Classroom,” media literacy educator Neil Andersen said that because teachers play a key role in creating productive adults, media education has become just as much a part of learning as math and history.
“Just as we now know about the importance of nutrition and the need to preserve the environment––also matters whose awareness has developed recently––we have recognized that the media is not just a source of entertainment and information, but an experience that defines our lives.”
Requiring media literacy education in the classroom now will help combat the spread of misinformation, promote healthy curiosity and define our lives meaningfully in today’s tech-centered world.