Frequently asked questions

What do you mean when you say “media literacy”?


I love this question. If you are not active in the media literacy community of scholars, educators, or advocates, the concept can be confusing. But it should not be. Here’s how I explain it:

Media literacy means understanding your relationship with media. We are immersed in media content all day every day, whether we acknowledge it or not. The impact of the content we consume can be soul-crushing or it can offer limitless positive possibilities. Media literacy is the 21st century version of what we have known simply as literacy.

Reading ability and comprehension now extends to all types of media, not just print. Media literacy begins by getting curious about the media in and around your life—asking exhaustive questions about it, starting with "who made this, how, and why? and how did this content make its way to me?".

We all should be thinking critically about the role media plays in our lives, and paying closer attention to media’s access to our time, thoughts, wallets, feelings, beliefs, and behaviors. Being aware of how we are persuaded by the content we consume, and then regulating media's presence and impact in our lives should be the goal.

Also worth noting, while we're here, what I do not mean when it comes to media literacy. This is absolutely not a political or partisan issue. Media literacy is not an anti-faith concept. Media literacy is not about judgment, or indoctrination of any sort. Media literacy is about education that is relevant for the type of connected culture we find ourselves navigating on a daily basis.




Media literacy, digital literacy, information literacy, news literacy, advertising literacy... something-else literacy. What’s the difference?


We are always talking about media literacy and consider this to be the umbrella under which one would find all of the other terms.The intention is the same by any name, however, there are many approaches. For example, digital literacy refers to an individual's fluency with modern technologies and the internet landscape. But when is media or communication not involved in that process? Information literacy, which we hear most often from librarians, refers to one's ability to locate and analyze data based on what may be needed for a specific purpose. As for news literacy, news is media. I will add that the difference with this approach is that the literacy conversation is focused on deciphering news from opinion or advertising or propaganda. Then, there are efforts in media literacy education that emphasize safety (at micro and macro levels), such as in digital citizenship or cyber safety. Still, the handling of mediated content is the central focus.




Media literacy is something for kids, right?


Media literacy applies to kids and everyone in their lives. Better stated: media literacy is for anyone who engages with media content. But when it comes to making it relevant for kids, we all have to be allies in this. That means we should all be on the same page about the way we speak of cultivating healthy media habits with young people. Consistency in what we say and what we model means everyone in the village benefits from being media literate.




Media literacy sounds so...medicinal. Can’t you call it something else?


I’ve heard more than one person imply that the term “media literacy” doesn't sound sexy enough. This sounds a bit like attaching the concept of clarity or understanding to media sparks discomfort. That alone is worth some conversation. I just don't want us to be distracted by the label. I do want to get people practicing media literacy habits. But the resistance to the idea of it, in my opinion, makes a strong case for why media literacy is necessary.




Why aren’t they teaching this at my kid’s school?


That's a great question. We are searching for the answer as well. Education that doesn't address media literacy at this point, when kids are spending nearly 11 hours per day engaged with media, is missing the mark for setting students up for success in this type of mediated culture.




How can I get involved or just learn more?


Let us know you're interested through our Contact Page.




Media just means social media, right?


No. In the media literacy context, media, refers to content or messages that originate from one source, but are produced to reach many (the masses). We're talking about content made available to mass audiences via a medium of communication. Media is plural for medium. So, social networks/platforms, yes. But also: television shows, books, commercials, vlogs, movies, websites, music, podcasts, video games, signs, logos, apps, billboards, newspapers, magazines, posters, videos... get the idea?