% of teens online
% of online teens use
some kind of social media
average age kids get their
first cell phone
% of youth ages 12-17 who
have a smartphone

Source: Pew Research Internet Project

Why Media Literacy?

Students today have not known a world without the Internet.

These digital natives use technology daily to connect and create in transformative ways. A simple swipe, click or tap offers children limitless potential for exploration and learning. But with that power comes responsibility. Although youth have access to unlimited information on the Internet, many are still unable to analyze, interpret and evaluate the abundance of information bombarding them daily (Hobbs, 2008). For today’s connected teen, media literacy skills are not optional or simply convenient, rather, “media and digital literacy education is now fundamentally implicated in the practice of citizenship” (Hobbs, 2010, p. 16). Although educators’ own experience with technology may be limited, it is crucial for teachers to recognize the essential nature of media literacy in the lives of today’s students.

Where can a media literacy course fit into a school day packed with core subjects? It can’t. Instead media literacy should be embedded across all subjects, just as the media itself has become deeply entrenched across all aspects of our day-to-day existence. Rather than treating media literacy as an add-on, Jenkins (2006) calls for “a paradigm shift, one that, like multiculturalism or globalization, reshapes how we teach every existing subject” (p. 57). Technology permeates almost every facet of our society. K-12 education, as a primer for adult life, should reflect the realities of our hypermediated world.

Prior to the social web, media literacy focused on the consumption of media and was defined narrowly as the ability to evaluate and analyze media messages (Aspen Media Literacy Leadership Institute, 1992). This curriculum encourages critical thinking of media creation as well as consumption. In addition to considering why authors and advertisers construct messages, today’s media literacy curriculum needs to address why teens construct messages the way they do. The digital revolution has put citizens in the publisher’s seat. As such, media literacy needs to shift from critiquing static text to critiquing ourselves as users.

" Media literacy is a paradigm shift, one that reshapes how we teach every existing subject. "

Henry Jenkins