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What is Media Literacy?

In the United States, information about the world often comes to us through commercial mass media. Media is a powerful tool of education, socialization, and indoctrination that influences our understanding of the world and the way the world functions. It affects how we perceive others and ourselves. Media culture permeates the fabric of our daily lives.  What is important to understand is that media literacy is not about "protecting" kids from unwanted messages. Although some groups urge families to just turn the TV off, the fact is, media are so ingrained in our cultural milieu that even if you turn off the set, you still cannot escape today's media culture. Media no longer just influence our culture. They ARE our culture.

Media literacy, therefore, is about helping students become competent, critical and literate in all media forms so that they control the interpretation of what they see or hear rather than letting the interpretation control them.  To become media literate is not to memorize facts or statistics about the media, but rather to learn to raise the right questions about what you are watching, reading or listening to. Len Masterman, the acclaimed author of Teaching the Media, calls it "critical autonomy" or the ability to think for oneself.

Without this fundamental ability, an individual cannot have full dignity as a human person or exercise citizenship in a democratic society where to be a citizen is to both understand and contribute to the debates of the time.

The eighth annual US Media Literacy Week will be held October 24th-28th, 2022.  This week is designed to bring attention and visibility to media literacy education in the United States.  Whether you are an individual teacher or an employee of an organization, decide what you want to help with plans such as professional development workshops, screenings, and panel discussions, or tour a local television station.  Events are still being organized today all over the country.  If you have any questions or need help with a media literacy idea, write an email to

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