How to Talk About Media Literacy with Your Children
Music, movies, TV shows, social media and popular culture influences the way we think and engage with the world around us. It is important to think about the messages we, as a society, and our children are hearing, reading and seeing when we consume content. It is especially true given that the media landscape is often filled with portrayals of unhealthy relationships, unrealistic body standards, sexualization, toxic masculinity, materialistic ideals of success and underrepresentation of minorities.
Research shows that exposure to such content is “associated with the development of gender ideals and identity, objectification and sexualization of women, permissive sexual attitudes and risky sexual behaviours, as well as greater acceptance of sexual and gendered violence.” In addition, concerns about misinformation and online predatory behaviour show us that it’s important to teach our children and youth to be media literate and think critically about what they are seeing.
Media literacy is the ability to identify different types of media and understand the messages they're sending. It is also being able to critically understand the nature and reason a piece of media content has been produced.
Not sure where to start and don’t know how to talk to your children about media literacy? Here are some resources you can reference:
- Media reviews and recommendations from Common Sense Media: Parents can use this website to find movies and TV shows that are age appropriate. This site gives ratings based on age and offers other parents’ recommendations and suggestions based on age.
- Practice digital literacy skills in a social media simulation with Social Media Test Drive: Social Media Test Drive has online simulations for social media that youth and parents can go through, including “The ups and downs of social media”, “healthy social media habits”, “ads on social media”, and “news in social media”. There are also many resources for parents on how to talk about social media with their children.
- Digital Compass by Common Sense Education: This choose-your-own-path interactive game teaches students the fundamentals of digital citizenship through decision making. It is designed for youth in Grades 6-8 and goes through different scenarios in which users can make decisions about social media. It’s a fun game, recommended by the YWCA’s Youth Education program facilitators.
- How to cope with upsetting news stories from Kids Help Phone: A good article for parents who would like to support their children when coping with upsetting news stories or information. There are many other resources listed and they offer a good range of different coping methods.
- Why We Should Question Media With Our Children from YWCA’s Culture Shift project: This resource breaks down digital post-production, questioning intentions and the commercial reasons behind media content and offers tips on how to be more critical of what you watch, buy and share.
- MediaSmarts resources for Parents: Media Smarts, Canada’s Centre for Digital and Media Literacy offers a wide range of resources for parents from workshops and videos to tip sheets, guides and games.
- The Parents & Caregivers Guide to Online Youth Radicalization from Southern Poverty Law Center (splcenter.org): A great resource for parents and caregivers about youth interacting with extreme and harmful opinions online. It gives parents strategies on how they can talk to their kids about responding to hate when they see it online.
- Check the Share from MediaSmarts: A quick guide for stopping the spread of misinformation that talks about checking the sources first and what trusted and expert sources are.
- Break the Fake from MediaSmarts: A revamp of the House Hippo campaign from the 90s that encourages youth to be skeptical about information they see, hear, or read in the media.
WIth resource files provided from YWCA Youth Education’s Kristen Stowe and Erin Roberts.