Educate

It's a media-rich world. Some may equate the term “media” with news agencies - but in fact, media in its broader sense includes any communication content with which we interact. Everywhere we turn, from the moment we awake until the moment we go to sleep, we interact with, interpret, and create media. Any piece of media is a representation of reality, yet we rarely pause to question where it comes from and who constructed it - and to evaluate its point.

It's a media-rich world. Some may equate the term “media” with news agencies - but in fact, media in its broader sense includes any communication content with which we interact. Everywhere we turn, from the moment we awake until the moment we go to sleep, we interact with, interpret, and create media. Any piece of media is a representation of reality, yet we rarely pause to question where it comes from and who constructed it - and to evaluate its point.

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.

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.

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.

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.

InCtrl - Media Literacy

Cable Impacts brings you InCtrl, a series of free standards-based lessons, originally developed by Cable in the Classroom, that teach key digital citizenship concepts.

Media Awareness Network

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

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.

National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE)

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.

National PTA


The National PTA is the nation’s largest volunteer child advocacy organization and is a leader in helping parents learn about media. Click on Parent Resources and Media & Technology for information and resources covering a wide range of media and issues.

The 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.