What is Media Literacy and Why Does it Matter?

Everyone from the President of the United States to a posh toddler can carry an iPhone and send off mass messages to hundreds and thousands of online influencers. We connect at the touch of a button and make decisions with the flick of a wrist. As a result, it’s especially important for employees, students, influencers, and everyday users to have media literacy and understand the consequences that follow online actions.

Educators have adapted to the times and incorporated media literacy skills into the educational standards of every state through a variety of subjects. From language arts to mathematics, humanities, and social sciences, every curriculum can touch on digital messaging.

No matter how media literacy is introduced, it’s important that educators help learners develop critical thinking skills, and understand the impact media messaging has on society. Teachers should also teach students to evaluate the validity of words, produce original content and use their voice to improve the media landscape and all those affected by a SEND, UPLOAD, or TWEET button.

What is Media Literacy

According to the National Association for Media Literacy Education, media literacy is the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, create, and act using all forms of communication. Media literacy means anything from interpreting emojis to understanding underlying messages in online advertisements to producing viral video content and recognizing native advertising.

While media literacy sounds like a practical skill understood by everyone with internet access, it’s astounding how many online users are unaware of their impact on others and their own susceptibility to media manipulation.

We’re breaking down three reasons why it’s important for young users and plugged-in professionals alike to be fluent in media mayhem.

Critical Thinking

Media literacy is all about finding the untold story beneath film clips, radio spots, and newspaper articles. Even corporate sponsored content has hidden messages that challenge us to think beyond what we hear and see.

For instance, teaching students to deconstruct messages in a pen advertisement that demeans the intelligence of female consumers, challenges them to expand their level of thinking and refuse to accept questionable content.

Understanding why a company markets pink pens to girls and what that means for society, forces students to take a mental leap: advertisement to real world application.

Developing critical thinking skills through media messaging also strengthens observational skills.

Why does this matter?

Observation and interpretation are skills that extend beyond the realm of resisting faulty advertising. Questioning the norm and reinterpreting layers of everyday messaging gives students everything they need to become smart-decision makers in real-world scenarios. 


Film students watch classic films to understand how directors capture an emotion effectively and artistically. Aspiring designers analyze successful advertisements to determine how color, proximity, font, imagery, and text contribute to reliable messaging. Writers read novels, scripts and magazine articles to understand sentence structure and powerful imagery.

Studying how others relay media to communicate a particular message or emotion,

helps students effectively conceptualize and produce their own content.

Thanks to fierce competition and market saturation, media today is more out-of-the-box than ever before, and watching the best of the best is enough to inspire creativity in anyone.

Even hedge fund owners and top lawyers and financial accountants rely on their creative muscles to solve problems. So work them early and implement media literacy into every lesson plan!

Civic Responsibility

Current issues are expressed between the curtains of late night comedy shows, magazine covers, and back-to-back thirty-second political ads.

In a few education-filled years, pupils will be the masterminds behind these viral videos, presidential campaigns, and glossy publications. And when content is fair and just, knowledge of media literacy is always the ethical blueprint behind it.

Without studying the ins-and-outs of media mayhem, we miss the unspoken moral guidelines that lead every digital decision. So why not do everything possible to ensure that tomorrow’s campaign managers reject spite and hate speech?

Not to mention, it’s impossible to decipher falsity from fact without successfully distinguishing between campaign satire and political truth, propaganda and fair advertising.

In a world where media spreads faster than air, media literacy is the key to keeping communities well-informed and well-represented.

In Conclusion…

Every day, we find ourselves watching a televised advertisement, listening to a radio broadcast, looking at a film, reading a magazine and interpreting complex messages sent through a variety of different digital channels.

If you’re an educator searching for ways to spice up a lesson plan or boost engaged learning, consider tying your typical curriculum to media literacy.

The next generation of smart consumers will thank you.

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