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How to Practice Media Literacy: 5 Helpful Questions

How to Practice Media Literacy 5 Helpful Questions

Table of Contents

Summary

Sometimes, we fall into the trap of just accepting what we are seeing and hearing without engaging in much critical thinking. The tools we use to fight back against blindly accepting messages from the media are called media literacy skills. Media literacy skills involve consciously taking time to analyze and evaluate the content you consume.

What Is Media Literacy? 

Americans are bombarded by information every day, from printed text to webpages to social media to videos to lectures. While there is no way to know for sure exactly how much information we see each day, current research estimates that the average American spends 771 minutes a day consuming media (Götting, 2022). Those minutes of media consumption have increased by an average of 19.3 minutes per year over the past ten years (Molla, 2020), and the trend doesn’t look to be going down any time soon.  

All that information is a lot for the brain to process. As a result, sometimes, we fall into the trap of just accepting what we are seeing and hearing without engaging in much critical thinking.  

Many companies, marketers, and influencers attempt to shock or persuade their audience, all for their own personal gain. This personal gain could be money, power, influence, exposure, and so on. If you have ever clicked on “click bait,” or a link to an article that uses a catchy or disturbing headline and/or images to get you to read it, then you know all too well the ways in which certain media attempt to manipulate you into thinking, feeling, or behaving in certain ways. 

The tools we use to fight back against blindly accepting messages from the media are called media literacy skills. Media literacy skills involve consciously taking time to analyze and evaluate the content you consume. Certainly, these skills take time and effort to develop fully. However, you can easily grow your media literacy by developing a healthy skepticism of the media you are listening to or viewing. 

5 Ways To Practice Media Literacy 

Here are some questions you can begin to ask as you are interacting with media of any kind. Doing so will help you to sharpen your media literacy skills. 

1. Investigate the Creator

Who made the piece you are viewing or hearing? In what ways might they be biased? Is the creator attempting to project a certain image of themselves?   

2. Note the Source

Is this source a credible one for this topic? Are there other reputable sources cited or linked? Are the people interviewed well-regarded in their field? 

3. Be Wary of Questionable Websites

Are there ads splashed all over the page? Are there multiple grammar and spelling mistakes? Does the headline feel like clickbait? Does the source just feel off? 

4. Analyze the Purpose

Why was the piece made? Is the creator manipulating any details in order to get you to believe something or take an action (like, share, subscribe, buy, etc.)? 

5. Check Your Own Biases

Are you seeking out information that offers multiple perspectives? To get a fuller picture, are you looking at sources whose views are different than your own? 

A Word From Oasis

Because of the overwhelming amount of content that we take in each day, it is understandable that we sometimes get fatigued and allow ourselves, usually without even realizing it, to fall prey to content creators who are attempting to exploit us. Thankfully, by practicing media literacy, we can put in the work to challenge the messages that we receive, in order to become more responsible with the information that we are taking in and what we do with it. 

Scholarly Sources 

Götting, M.C. (2022). Media use in the U.S. by format. Statista. https://www.statista.com/statistics/276683/media-use-in-the-us/  

Media Smarts. (n.d.) Media literacy fundamentals. Canada’s Center for Digital and Media Literacy. https://mediasmarts.ca/digital-media-literacy/general-information/digital-media-literacy-fundamentals/media-literacy-fundamentals  

Molla, R. (2020, January 6). Tech companies tried to help us spend less time on our phones. It didn’t work. Vox. https://www.vox.com/recode/2020/1/6/21048116/tech-companies-time-well-spent-mobile-phone-usage-data  

Wicks, A. (2021, May 28). How to improve your media literacy skills. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. https://www.unc.edu/discover/how-to-improve-your-media-literacy-skills/  

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