We encourage the youth to be participative, take on significant roles in the areas of leadership and governance, be responsible citizens and contribute towards society. None of these functions are a possibility unless we guide and coach people, particularly the youth to be able to understand and use media which is a significant contributor towards how they perceive, think and feel about and respond to situations. There is an immense need for us to build a community that values and supports being media literate, developing the skills within the to be able to analyse and evaluate the information they receive.
The amount of media messages we consume on a daily basis is voluminous and it can get overwhelming for many to be continually exposed to a plethora of messages. Besides being overwhelmed this runs the potential vice of substantially influencing and shaping the views that are held by people. Additionally, it can also lead to the development of misconceptions and misunderstandings, fuelling thought processes that can be negative and detrimental not just to the individual but also to society at large. A bigger problem too can emerge when these same mechanisms are misutilized to propagate negativity, hatred, fuel anger, resentment and sway the emotions of young people.
To counteract the potential pitfalls that the advances in the realm of communication and technology have afforded us, we need to begin by encouraging the youth to ask the right questions. This then also begs the question ‘What are the right questions?’ When you are looking to equip yourself or someone you know with the right tools to be able to infer the intentionality of the media you are consuming start by asking the following:
- Who created this message?
- What is the intent behind the creation of this message?
- Is this message from a reputed and credible source?
- What assumptions underlie the media message which are reflective of their creators’ thought process?
- Can this message be interpreted differently?
- Is someone benefitting from the creation and distribution of this message?
- Do the gains that can be accrued on account of the message influence the way it is constructed?
- Has this message been manipulated through technological means to enhance its attractiveness?
Encouraging and engaging the youth to ask these questions guides them in the direction of building their own reservoir of understanding and the ability to critically think and evaluate the purposes and intent of the message. Being aware is to be empowered and to gain this knowledge is likely to shape the manner in which an individual responds on the basis of the information and messaging they receive.
- Being critical thinkers – A skill that is vastly necessary and valuable in today’s times, the ability to think critically needs to be nurtured specifically with regards to media. Pushing youth to be media literate encourages them to ask the right questions, find answers, letting go of stereotypes and redundant belief systems, all of which are crucial to their success.
- Becoming informed consumers – A large part of life is lived by many in a fairly mindless way. choices are made without necessarily thinking about how these are being shaped by mechanisms from within our environment, especially the media that is consumed. Being media literate supports becoming an informed consumer by understanding the intent behind media messages as well as who would benefit from them.
- Understanding multiple perspectives – Promoting and enhancing a young individual’s media literacy encourages them to be able to step back and even away from the received and believed notions. This allows them to be able to determine more possibilities and other perspectives to view the media that they are consuming.
- Understanding of the need to take responsibility – Responsibility and ownership are of great value in the context of societal living. Media literacy enable individuals to recognise the import of what they say, how they say it and the impact it can have. This can be a boost for them to recognise the need to maintain mindfulness about how they create and share content.
- Remembering the immense role of media – Most importantly, media literacy is what allows individuals to recognize the sheer number of media messages they receive as well as the various direct and indirect ways in which they receive these. It makes them more aware and sensitized towards how things work which is the first step towards also being able to determine how things can be changed to make them work better.
In conclusion it is of vast importance to inculcate and harness the skills, ethical judgment and sense of responsibility in youth which enable them to know, understand, analyse, create, collaborate, reflect and take action with respect to how they engage with various media and the messages they receive.