A marblehead voice for media literacy training for students
MARBLEHEAD, MA – A highly competitive election, global plague, and the effects of that year-long plague are causing students across the country to spend much more time alone at their computers and much less time surrounded by people of different opinions, collectively a growing problem represents a critical point for advocates of media literacy over the past year.
For Marblehead’s Louise Weber, who watched her own children bombarded with online opinions, advertisements, and targeted content as they grew up in the unknown age of smartphones and tablets, her job as a research manager for the national nonprofit Media Literacy Now was so important as always.
“We believe that media literacy is literacy and that young people need to know how to decipher information they receive in all forms,” Weber told Patch. “All children need to be able to interpret, understand and analyze what they see and hear. They have to learn to think about why they see and hear it so that they can make informed decisions and critically consume and analyze all media that is coming their way. “
Media Literacy Now is a non-political organization that provides schools with toolkits and curricula for media literacy programs. As a research manager, Weber helps track legislative activity in the media across the country for the organization’s website.
Whether through biased reporting, social media algorithms that direct certain content to consumers, or simply product placement, Media Literacy Now aims to give young people the tools to understand when information is being presented to them objectively and when they are being billed goods are sold.
“It’s as important as reading and writing,” said Weber, a native of Marblehead whose son attended Belmont Schools and whose daughter attended Marblehead Middle and High School. “We give our children a device and we don’t give them guidelines or rules for what they see. We need to educate them on how to critically use this very ubiquitous and powerful media.
“It’s very worrying. This is the age of alternative facts. I think a lot of media outlets want you to believe that their message is the only message you need to hear.
Weber said she believes the seeds of the current media literacy crisis were sown in 1987 when the “fairness doctrine” – forcing media companies to fair and accurately present subjects of overriding interest licensed through the Federal Communications Commission – was abolished.
What followed was the rise of cable news networks that are more likely to tell their audiences what they want to hear and what they need to know, as well as websites that benefit from influencing everything from political beliefs to blue jeans and blue jeans shopping LEGOs. While there have been targeted advertisements for younger people for decades – for example, sugary cereal commercials during Saturday morning cartoons – it was a lot easier to monitor when there were four local FCC-licensed channels on television than it is now that there is unlimited internet .
“It teaches students how to assess motivation,” said Weber. “Why do you see this ad for whatever product? Why do you see them presented like this?
“It’s about schools teaching students to ask questions and not just sit around blindly and accept everything that is presented to them.”
Find out more about Weber’s work with Media Literacy Now here.
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(Scott Souza is a Patch Field Editor for Beverly, Danvers, Marblehead, Peabody, Salem, and Swampscott. He can be reached at Scott.Souza@Patch.com. Twitter: @Scott_Souza.