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100 Family Media/Digital Literacy Activities

By Gloria DeGaetano, CEO and Founder, Parent Coaching Institute

Consider Media Literacy
What is “media literacy?” The word literacy connotes a high degree of competency and usually means that a person knows how to read and write. A literate person, on the other hand, is well read, using and applying high level thinking skills across a broad range of topics. Computer literacy means the capacity to use computers well. Media literacy, then, is the ability to use all forms of media well. A medialiterate person uses television, movies, DVDs, computer and video games for specific purposes, just as a print-literate person reads a book or a magazine, a college text or a newspaper for specific, various reasons. Using all visual screen technology intentionally is the first, and most important element in becoming media literate. Ultimately as parents we want children and teens to be in control of small screens and not be controlled by them. Research has verified and experts know that a child who mindlessly watches a lot of TV or plays video games endlessly is less equipped to develop the capacities for wise media use. A media literate child, on the other hand, would learn to self-monitor screen time, rather than make a habit of it four-five hours a day or more. He or she would want to do other activities because thinking, creative children are curious beings, and there's a whole world out there to explore. Screen technologies are just one small part of it. In addition to being able to control media use, media-literate children and teens know the differences between various presentation forms of media. Just as a print-literate person can tell a fairly tale from a biography, a media-literate person knows how different techniques are used to convey messages. Sitcoms are not documentaries, for instance, and while music videos may look like some commercials with their quick cuts, commercials and music videos have specific audiences, every image carefully constructed to “hook” an intended audience. While a print-literate person reads words; a media literate person reads images. Using analysis, evaluation, and higher level thinking skills, a media-literate person interprets the subtle messages and overt claims visual messages convey. This is where we want our children to be headed: toward it becoming second nature to think well about all forms of media images. Media literacy consists of four basic skills: • Ability to use all forms of screen technology purposefully, age-appropriately • Ability to critique visual messages and understand their intent and intellectual and emotional impact • Ability to communicate facts, ideas, and thoughtful opinions about media images • Understanding of media production techniques such as camera angles, lighting, cuts, etc. and how they impact the messages being delivered to influence the viewer