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Using a Critical Lens: 3 Media Literacy Tips for Youth

On November 18 the YWCA Youth Advisory Council hosted its sixth annual youth media literacy conference, YOUth: Deconstructing the World Around You. Youth from across Metro Vancouver came together to learn about media representation, gain media literacy skills and discuss strategies for navigating the world of media.

Here are three media literacy tips from the conference: 

  1. Rewind and review
    During the World Café discussions, one group summarized their discussion with the hashtag #RewindAndReview, which encouraged everyone to re-watch their favourite shows and movies with a more critical lens. Inequality in the media is not always obvious because it can be perpetuated in a number of ways. As media consumers, we tend to romanticize our favourite shows, making it harder for us to be aware of the ways they could be influencing us. Revisiting your favourite stories, episodes and characters with a more critical lens might be a good learning opportunity (and an excuse to re-watch the show!).

  2. Seek out positive representation 
    Media is not all bad. What the Youth Advisory Council members found while planning the conference was that it’s often easier to find negative examples of media representation than it is to find positive examples. So to address this gap, the conference had an entire wall dedicated to ‘Our Unproblematic Favourites’ with categories like TV Shows and Music. This interactive wall activity enabled participants to share different types of media that they found to be unproblematic and positive. Expanding the media that you consume to include more inclusive representation and diverse stories can help foster more critical engagement.

  3. #CONNECT 
    It is important to look at social media as a way to connect and an opportunity for exchanging ideas. During the conference, participants spoke of the different ways that social media has connected them to social movements and social justice issues (e.g. looking through Facebook events for conferences like ours, sharing a reading list online and encouraging others to comment with suggestions). Using social media to connect with people who have different experiences, and people who share similar interests, can broaden your knowledge and expose you to different topics.


It’s important to remember that being critical doesn’t mean boycotting every TV show or movie with a negative portrayal. Enjoying media and being critical of media don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Critical media literacy means that you’re aware of the messages you’re receiving, that you’re actively engaging with the media you consume and that you’re open to having conversations about media representation.

Have a question about the Youth Advisory Council? Contact Miley Leong at mleong@ywcavan.org | 604 895 5798

To support programs like the Youth Advisory Council, contact Kathy Lilyholm at klilyholm@ywcavan.org | 604 895 5851

The Youth Advisory Council is funded by Methanex and the Government of Canada.

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