Media Literacy is the ability to access, analyze, evaluate and create media in a variety of forms.
As a parent of children and teens, you need to analyze media messages and “scientific studies” and not be swayed by biased research, opinions, or anecdotes trumpeted as “facts.”
Children introduced to reading early on tend to read earlier and excel in school compared to children who are not exposed to language and books at a young age.
Listen in as Linda Reid, MD, discusses our media-driven society and how to get your child on track to take it all in.
RadioMD Presents: Healthy Children | Original Air Date: March 25, 2015
Host: Melanie Cole, MS
Guest: Yolanda (Linda) Reid Chassiakos, MD
Hear it from the doctor with expert guests from the American Academy of Pediatrics. It’s Healthy Children. Now, our favorite mom, Melanie Cole, MS.
MELANIE: What an interesting topic we have. For centuries, literacy has been the ability to read and write but today we get so much of our information through this interwoven system of media technologies. It’s coming at us through our iPads and our smartphones and the television and podcasts. So, the ability to get involved with all these different types of media is really an essential skill and do your children know how to sort fact from fiction and truth from false things? And with all this media coming at them, how do you teach your kids media literacy?
My guest today is Dr. Linda Reid Chassiakos. she’s a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and a Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the David Geffen School of Medicine.
Welcome to the show, Dr. Reid.
So, tell us about media literacy today. What is it and how is it so different than what it used to be?
DR LINDA: Well, what it used to be was just learning how to read and learning how to understand what we were reading in a book or on a paper but as you’ve mentioned there are so many different types of media out there right now. They can include paper media like newspapers and magazines and they can include screen media such as television, iPods and iPads. The definition of media literacy is the ability to access, analyze, evaluate and/or create media in a variety of forms and to think critically about all the messages that inform, entertain and sell to us. Then, for us to be able to make the best choices about what we’re going to do for ourselves, for our children, for adolescents, for our family. I think one of the things that folks may not realize is that everything that we see in the media has been prepared and planned with a purpose. Things just don’t randomly get produced and go on television, especially advertising. Advertising is intended to make viewers do something that they might not have chosen to do otherwise. There’s a purpose behind it. And in many cases, that purpose is to go ahead and make money. There are the processes of getting a commercial on television that is very complicated, not just writing the advertisement but testing it to see if it’s effective in selling whatever the company that is running the advertisement is selling. So, parents and families have to be able to help their children view media and to be able to critically think and analyze what is the message, what’s the purpose of this message, who’s behind it, what is the reason that it is being presented this way? How accurate is the presentation? Although there are regulatory bodies that can go ahead and encourage advertisements, for example, to be as accurate as possible, there are elements of omission. I’ll give you an example. If someone is advertising, let’s say, e-cigarettes, they might show a picture of someone glamorous using an e-cigarette but they may not show some of the negative side effects from nicotine addiction from wrinkles that develop from yellow teeth, other things.
MELANIE: So, Dr. Reid I’m going to stop you for a second because I understand what you’re saying and we have to teach our children, this but how do we teach them the difference between recognizing bias and spin and misinformation from, as you say, from the prepared media-newspapers, commercials, news channels, the 24/7 news channels; the things that they’re going to see that look like news channels on the internet and then you go to Snopes and you find out something that you just heard is a complete falsehood. Or people are putting these things on Facebook--a story about something that looks like it came from a really credible source and you’re like, "Come on now. That didn’t come from any…" How do we teach our children to disseminate between the credible sources and the not? Also, Dr. Reid, because at school they’re not allowed to use Wikipedia as a media source. There are certain ones that are "no go's". How do we disseminate between the ones that are legitimate and maybe biased but legitimate and the one’s that aren’t?
DR LINDA: Well, it’s sometimes harder than it looks because if you’ve been on the internet and taken a look at websites, some of them can look absolutely fantastic. They can be very inviting. They can be designed very professionally and look as if they are fountains of truth and they may not be. Certainly, one of the most obvious recommendations, especially, if we are looking for health information for our children and teenagers, is to find sites and areas of information sources that you recognize that use science as a basis for the information that they present. And that for example is obviously the American Academy of Pediatrics, AAP.org.
MELANIE: Of course it is. Ding ding ding!
DR LINDA: (laughs) I’ve got to do the plug! And also HealthyChildren.org, which is developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
MELANIE: And RadioMD.com. Because we are putting on shows by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Sports Medicine.
DR LINDA: Yes!
MELANIE: So, you know you’re getting quality information here. Okay. So, you know your good organizations and you take the scientific ones, but we’ve seen this recently, Dr. Reid, where people are having the big vaccine debate and some people say, "Well, science says this," and some people say, "Science doesn’t say that." It’s the same with climate change. Some people will insist that science backs it up and some people say, "No. It doesn’t." It’s so hard to teach your children what that media maker wants you to believe.
DR LINDA: Well, I think recognizing that there is a message coming out and if it’s a for-profit organization, then that message may not be your family’s health, it may be that company’s profit. So, that is something that has to be taken into account. But looking at scientific organizations that use the basic principles of science, which are studies, research and experiments that look at large numbers of people under supervised observation can provide legitimate and effective data. Other sites that may not have that scientific basis may consist of anecdotal reports, some of which may be true and some of which may not be, but they do not reflect the scientific method that’s behind the research that an AAP site or a CDC, Department of Health and Human Services, a university medical center site or other sites do.
MELANIE: Are they teaching this in school? Are they teaching media literacy to identify target marketing strategies? Because I think this would be a very useful tool. I know there’s a really good website, MediaLiteracyProject.org. But, teaching kids to identify target marketing strategies and name those techniques of persuasion and recognize those spins and bias. Are they teaching this? Is this now becoming part of the mainstream school education?
DR LINDA: In Canada, in Australia and in other countries. In the United States they are in some areas. It’s sporadic but you, as a parent, can go ahead and learn about media and about media literacy and serve as a mentor to your children. In fact, we recommend that children's exposure to screens is less than two hours a day. But we also recommend that parents sit with their children and watch media, interface with media, together. Whether that’s computer or television or some other type of screen or even a newspaper, discuss with your child or teenager what is the purpose of this message? Who are the people who are sending out this message? What are their qualifications? Is this just anecdotal or coincidental, perhaps? Or, is the information given, based on scientific research?
MELANIE: And I think that is so important. Parents, we do need to teach our children media literacy and you can ask your school if they are teaching it. This is such an interesting topic and these segments are so short but you can look up MediaLiteracyProject.org. You can look up AAP and HealthyChildren.org.
Teach your children how to understand those media messages that shape our culture and our society and how those messages are getting to us from so many different technologies that are out there; how they shape and view the world and they’re getting it from so many places. Work with your children so that they understand those messages and they don’t believe everything they see everywhere.
This is Melanie Cole you’re listening to RadioMD.