On average, adults spend close to 8 hours a day on the internet . Teens, ages 13-18, spend an average of 9 hours on media each day . That’s research from a 2015 survey, imagine how much those averages have gone up in the last eight years!
If we are spending excessive amounts of time on social media, how do we ensure that we are consuming media wisely? How do we decipher what’s true, what’s false, who’s real, and who’s not? How do we make sure we are using media safely so we aren’t lured into vulnerable situations?
It’s impossible to have full control of what we take in, but we can strengthen our ability to identify different types of media and the messages they are sending. We can begin to take smarter steps in ensuring we know what can be trusted. We can prevent things like vulnerabilities that the media can create. Here are three steps to raising appropriate questions regarding the messages we are bombarded with every day.
1. Deconstruct The Message
Every message is created by specific people with a specific purpose in mind. Ask yourself, what is the purpose of this message? Ask yourself these questions to deconstruct a message skillfully:
- CREATOR: Who created/posted this message?
- MESSAGE: What does this message say? What does the purpose seem to be? What supports the message? What is missing?
- MEDIUM: What form does the message take (email, letter, ad, post etc.)?
- RECEIVER: Who is the targeted audience? Who else sees, listens, or reads this message?
- CONTEXT: When and where was this message delivered? What comes before and after? What effect does it have?
2. Analyze Perspectives
It’s important to ask questions like what or whose perspective is this written from? What perspectives are excluded? Ask yourself:
- Who created this message and why?
- Who is excluded in this message?
- Who would disagree with this message and why?
- Does this message represent everyone involved in the situation fairly?
3. Detect Possible Bias
Biased messages unfairly represent an issue or topic. You can tell when there is bias involved when the message is overly emotional, unclear, or one-sided. Ask yourself:
- Does the message appeal to emotion rather than logic and reason?
- Does the message simplify or generalize information?
- Does the message contain a one-sided or limited view?
By improving media literacy with these steps we can begin to question, evaluate, and understand all types of media thoughtfully. We often are passive consumers of media, but let’s become active and engaged media consumers and creators. Let’s be smart about what we consume and what we believe. Let’s help reduce the vulnerabilities that media can lead people to. Let’s actively engage with media in smart ways today.
Here are some additional resources to check out:
- Read: How to Spot Real and Fake News, Mind Tools
- Read: Ways to Build Media Literacy in your Students and Why You Should, Waterford
- Read: Fake News and Online Rumor – Why Media Literacy is More Important Than Ever, Learning by Design