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Media Literacy- the need of the hour!

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July 16, 2018

Media Literacy- the need of the hour!

Media Literacy is a 21st century approach to education.

• It provides a framework to access, analyze, evaluate and create messages in a variety of forms – from print to video to the Internet.

• Media literacy builds an understanding of the role of media in society as well as essential skills of inquiry and self-expression necessary for citizens of a democracy.

A cursory glance at the definition of Media Literacy provided by Centre for Media Literacy clearly articulates the need to recognize the importance of media literacy to tackle the onslaught of information available through different media and approaching the subject in a judicious manner so we learn to harness the benefits of media while remaining vigilant to its pitfalls.

Media – The main means of mass communication (broadcasting, publishing, and the Internet) regarded collectively – has no doubt revolutionized the way we stay connected and respond to various developments taking place not just in the immediate surrounding but all over the globe. But has this proliferation of media and the resultant effects made us any wiser? I doubt it.

Just look at the impact of social media platforms alone. Our life today – the choices and decisions that determine the course of our earthly sojourn are unfortunately dictated by the façade we wear in the virtual world we seem to inhabit most of our waking time. This obsession about advertising to the entire world even the most intimate aspects of our lives, the brandishing of personal/private moments reveals a kind of sickness as evinced by the craving for likes and insincere gratifying comments for which the personal life is made fodder for public consumption. How else does one make sense of the deluge of photographs – of self and family doing the most mundane and routine things; accomplishments – big and small to even trivial and non-consequential making their way to social media? And what explains the exhilarating highs and dampening lows people experience depending on the likes that they are able to garner for their self-blandishments? And how credible are the ‘likes’ that are most often than not given begrudgingly and with the implicit understanding for reciprocation? An earnest introspection will blow the lid off the double standards we have been espousing ever since the social media became the touchstone for measuring our well-being and ‘well-becoming’. What youngsters know but do not pay heed to, are the dangers lurking behind the dark web and the seemingly innocent but deadly honey traps which can put their lives at risk. There are masquerading thugs and scoundrels waiting to prey on the gullible and the vulnerable. Even the educated and well- informed are no exception to it. The diabolic nature of online gaming and addiction to them has claimed many a precious life begging for urgent regulation in access and usage of online services.

Another down side of the ubiquitous media is the proliferation of fake news and personal opinions and views claiming the currency of public opinion. The unfiltered consumption of such unendorsed personal views poses a risk of opinion being passed off as information. There is an urgent need to teach children to differentiate between information and opinion. Sensationalization of news has led to trivialization of human interest stories. Now anything and everything is news worthy if it can grab eyeballs and scandalize people in high offices and public spaces. Obsession with life of celebrities with exclusive news stories and slots devoted for grapevine reflects the perversity of the mind and spawns a host of problems when the average Joe/Jane tries to ape the public icons one idolizes. Trying to identify with the celebrities by buying things they endorse and mindlessly following them in the virtual world results in obliteration of individual identity. Eating disorders many young girls suffer as they are bombarded with images of models in hour glass figures and body shaming results in impressionable minds losing grip of reality and leading a life based on standards sets by other people.

It is all too clear what damage unregulated exposure to media content can do to the immature minds that is not trained to filter the authentic information/ knowledge from content propagated by vested interests. Since media has pervaded our lives so inextricably that we cannot simply wish it away, it would help if we have mechanisms in place to ensure that we only reap the benefits of the proliferation of media and be immune to its adverse effects.

Now sample some insights strewn in the write-up by young media savvy ‘consumers’ and how they perceive the role and potential of media in their lives in particular and society in general.

The Millennial and the Media

Media today has become an essential and integral part of every millennial’s life. This all-encompassing source of information and news stories is impacting an average individual’s life in more ways than one! Today’s world without the omnipresent media can be likened to a wallet sans money in a marketplace with its enticing merchandize. Let us explore this analogy a little more. After the Knowledge Revolution brought about by the Internet boom, information and quick access to important information became the new currency. The ability to use relevant information for customized needs and leveraging the advantages of such accessibility for improving career prospects gave the generation Y a distinct advantage. The millennials are continuing to manipulate this advantage to give themselves an edge over others who have not accrued the benefits of being ‘media savvy’ in a world characterized by high connectivity and speed. One can no longer be ‘blissfully ignorant’ in today’s interconnected world. Media plays an important role in updating people about the various events taking place in the world every day which have wide ramifications in every sphere of human activity and enterprise. The role of media is visible in not just disseminating information but shaping of public opinion on matters of critical importance. The power of media is also being used to push for social and economic reforms.

This heightened level of awareness that the millennials enjoy today can be attributed to the all-powerful Media. With social media offering a platform to create and curate content, the consumer feels empowered and consequently makes the medium more popular.

Today media has become a very significant part of our daily lives as it has helped reinvent the ways we have been communicating. Now that surely makes a persuasive case for Media, doesn’t it?

Yamini. M,
9A, DPS Coimbatore

Regulating Media

With the invention of new technologies, the digital media which sprang up has taken the centre stage. In the publishing world, print media is slowly being taken over by digital media which the current generation of information seekers rely on for instant and quick access. This has led to transformation of earlier generation of print media giants into digital media houses. Digital media has the advantage of bringing information from all corners of the world into our living rooms within no time and has created new employment opportunities like bloggers, editors, feed assemblers, etc. This reliance on instant news from digital media is killing the age old habits of reading printed media like books, magazines, etc. Printed books/magazines provide pleasure of uninterrupted reading and leave long lasting impression on readers than instant news feeds where information overload hinders assimilation and internalization.

Modern media houses have become successful commercially due to their heavy investments in latest technologies to gather information, curating the information to cater to readers’ interest and making information available in many languages. There is also a lopsided development that becomes obvious to a discerning reader/consumer. Today many media giants are aligned with major political parties (becoming a mouthpiece of political parties) – at state and national and even international level- going by the stakes such parties have in the management of the media houses. This has resulted in biased reporting, fake news and paid news allegations that surface in the media way too often! This becomes a serious cause of concern as media is used as a tool by vested interests to alter behavioural patterns and change outcomes; one recent example being the Russian intervention in American elections to manipulate election results.

Individual web sites like Face book, Integra, etc became very addictive in nature and are changing/controlling human behaviour patterns. This is resulting in mental health issues like depression, slowing down cognitive thinking, etc. By giving children free and unrestricted access to these sites is putting gullible children in harm’s way.

Used correctly, Media holds enormous power to improve human life on this planet. But it is also used for the detriment of society unless regulated properly. Media when fulfilling its intended function as the fourth pillar of democracy can act as a check point for corruption, enable faster, quicker transmission of necessary and useful information and can become a sane voice in today’s fragmented and polarized world.

Varshitha Bandaru,
10 A, DPS Coimbatore

Social Impact of Media

Technological advancements in Media technology have made accessibility to current, vital information increasingly easier with every new innovation. Children today are encouraged to use media tools in school and are expected to have a general understanding of the various technologies available. The internet is arguably one of the most effective media tools for communication with its wide array to cater to different user needs which has brought people closer and created new online communities.

In a large consumer-driven society, electronic media and print media are important for advertisement content. More technologically advanced societies have access to goods and services through newer media. Media is nowadays a tool to share knowledge all around the world. It has also helped in the aspect of online or internet businesses and other activities that have an online presence. All media intended to affect human behaviour is couched in consumer psychology. Therefore, understanding media and communication psychology is fundamental in understanding the social and individual effects of media. The expanding field of media and communications psychology combines these established disciplines in a new way.

The information revolution is based on modern advancements. During the 19th century, the information boom rapidly advanced because of postal systems, increase in newspaper accessibility, as well as modernization of education systems. These advancements were made possible due to the increase in literacy rates and education status of average citizens. The tools and medium of communication has changed and dispersed in numerous directions and so has the scope of its socio-cultural impact. Biases in the media that affect religious or ethnic minorities take the form of racism and religious intolerance doing far more damage than good. Judging the wide ranging ramification that use of modern media can create, calls for its regulation so that these powerful and influential tools of mass communication can be leveraged only for collective good of the society.

Anumitha Jayaram,
8A, DPS Coimbatore



P Ajitha is an ‘accidental’ teacher who having stumbled upon teaching by chance has stayed put by choice having found the vocation enabling as well as ennobling. She teaches English and Life Skills with occasional foray into in-house teacher training at Delhi Public School, Coimbatore but prefers to call herself a co-traveller in the journey called education she embarks with her students and peers together. Like minded teaching practitioners can reach her at ajithapaladugu@gmail.com.

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