Used on its own, the term “literacy” is typically used to describe the ability for one to write and read effectively. However, there are a lot of parallels when it comes to literacy in a reading sense and media literacy. From the president of the United States to your next door neighbor, it is highly likely that they carry a smartphone or other devices that can connect to the Internet. It is a powerful tool that we have at our disposal, and with other media devices, we have the capacity to send messages that can reach an abundance of people. Interpreting some of these messages can prove to be important, however, and that is where media literacy takes precedence.

Media literacy is defined as the ability to identify unique kinds of media while understanding their corresponding messages. According to the National Association for Media Literacy Education, it is the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, create and act using all forms of communication. In the current age we live in, it is very easy for anyone to create any form of media. From text messages and advertising to memes and viral content, media takes all shapes and forms. This is where media literacy becomes important. Why is it crucial?

Critical Thinking 

One of the reasons why media literacy is important is because it develops critical thinking skills from a young age. Children are no exception when it comes to media literacy, especially considering the amount of content they may be exposed to on a daily basis. As kids learn to evaluate media on their own, they begin to decipher for themselves what is pertinent, why information may be excluded and what the overall purpose is. Based on any preliminary knowledge they already have, their curiosity may become piqued, and it may lead to more logical and complex conclusions and they mentally develop. The tools of observation and interpretation delve far deeper than the face value of the media they are exposed to. These skills challenge the norm and can potentially to smart decision-making towards the future.

Civic Responsibility 

With great exposure, comes great responsibility. We all may have some form of social media platform on Facebook and Twitter, and we also may have our own ways of communicating across the web. While the channels of communication remain unique, there is a great responsibility in using one’s platform wisely. Current issues in modern-day society, mainly political, are discussed at length in the media today. Spanning beyond your typical news channels, we see pertinent topics that affect society discussed on late night talk shows, stand-up comedy and even in sports. While many do not like intertwining politics with other genres of entertainment, the topic often gets brought up frequently. Without properly studying media literacy in this regard, false information and narratives can be thrown out to thousands, and potentially, millions of people. It could potentially reach the point where society would not be able to discern the line between harmless satire and political propaganda.

Self-Expression 

Studying how others specifically relay media in order to communicate an important message can be important in how you could potentially produce your own content. Today’s market is highly saturated with media, and the field is diverse. Some of the most prominent people in the media market become successful due to their astute media literacy skills. Writers read novels and scripts, directors watch film and designers analyze advertisements. If one aspires to enter the media industry and be a successful contributor, it would behoove one to properly study what made others successful first.

The definitions and use of media literacy have evolved over time to represent different viewpoints. While there is an underlying perception that media literacy is just an anti-media movement, it is quite the contrary. Those who are concerned with this concept are just a coalition of concerned people who seek an enlightened path of understanding the media world that surrounds them.