Media Literacy For The Youth
By Dr Samir Parikh and Kamna Chhibber
The internet, media, and social media are an integral and pervasive part of the lives that youths lead. Being connected to the world outside, sharing what is going on, being cued into what is happening with others you know or are interested to know about and continually staying informed and updated are an imperative. Conceptualizing a life that is devoid of gadgets and media is a near impossibility these days. The kind of engagement that occurs and the way in which information exists, as a result, certainly leads to shaping of experiences, feelings, thoughts, expectations, attitudes and approaches. Recognising and understanding these is crucial in order to ensure that you, as a young person, are able to stay grounded and attuned to your own true self.
Asking the right questions
To be informed and to comprehend the ways in which media might be influencing you and changing the narrative for you, it is important to start asking the right questions. Being a passive recipient of information who does not raise questions about the messages being received can create a significant impact on the ways in which you view and understand people and the world around you. There could be ways in which your choices are being determined, stereotypes and biases are potentially creeping into your ways of thinking and you would not recognise these without asking some questions. Start by asking yourself who could have created this message and could there be an agenda which is driving this. Recognise that every message you receive is being constructed by someone and there is likely a reason for the way it has been constructed and even the platform it is being shared across. Take it a step further by exploring if there are specific ways in which the message has been constructed that can draw your attention towards it. There are various principles which are utilized by individuals and organizations based on an understanding of the ways in which human beings think and respond that determine the structure of the message. It is usually built in a way to draw attention, engage the consumer and connect with them at an emotional and psychological level. Another important element to consider is whether the message can be viewed in a way that is different from the way in which you are perceiving and receiving it. Could there be other interpretations of it? Is it possible that your experiences and pre-existing conceptualizations are impacting the ways in which you are looking at the information you are consuming? How is it that your friend, your neighbour, your teachers, parents or grandparents may view the same thing? Reflect on the lifestyles, values, and perspectives that are being presented by way of the media message or what is it that might be missing. Finally, introspect about why the particular message is being shared. Thinking about the messages you receive from a critical standpoint and attempting to analyse their underpinnings is a life skill that would always be helpful. It enables you to understand motives and motivations and be able to take cognizance of what is meaningful for you and allows you to live life in a way that it reflects the values that you hold in esteem.
The Media Skills that You Must Imbibe
To navigate life successfully and to be able to live in a manner that is reflective of the values you would like to embody, it is important to build certain skills in to your ways of thinking. Taking that critical stance where you understand that media messages are constructed is of crucial importance. Recognise that these constructed messages are driven by a purpose and they can and do shape perceptions of reality. Each time you think that your view or belief is entirely your own, pause and reflect the various influences that have in fact shaped them and how your expectations are being nurtured on account of what information you are consuming through media. Different people who would view the same message would have a different perception of the same information. This is what structures people’s perspectives and leads to the differences in viewpoints that are there. It is important to not be dismissive of these diverse perspectives. Instead look at utilizing them to build your own ability to think laterally and cultivate a sense of creativity with which you approach situations. There is a purpose behind what messages you are receiving and being cognizant of it is going to aid you in being able to lean into your own self to make choices.
Simple things you can do:
- Check the source of your information
- Ensure that you are looking for diverse perspectives on a topic
- Be willing to discuss the issue with others around you
- Challenge yourself to look for contrary information so you don’t simply accept the information that you receive
- Before you share anything with others verify its authenticity
How Adults Can Support
Adults – teachers, family members, neighbours – can all play a rather critical role in being able to support the development of media literacy skills in the youth. Having conversations which are devoid of judgment and blame is an essential way to help young people develop media literacy skills. Discussions that focus on building perspective and where conversations occur that look at breaking down the messages that continually come towards the young are important ways forward. It is crucial to let children and adolescents explore but it is even more important to have discussions with them about what they observed, experienced and thought. Raising these questions with young people enables them to also start thinking about what they saw, heard or read and encourages them to build the important skills of reflection and introspection.
A Final Word
In today’s times when misinformation and falsities can abound, it is important to raise the right questions to verify the information you are consuming and being aware of the ways in which you are being influenced. Building these skills will ensure that you can be more authentic and true to your own value system, and not be easily swayed by what everyone else around you is saying and doing. Finding your own identity and building your own perspective, which allows you to standout is helpful in place of being someone who would be a conformist. It is the responsibility of adults who surround the young as well as media platforms that the youth can imbibe the right kind of skills to be media literate.