What Is Media Literacy? Definition and Examples

Understand media literacy, its benefits, and how to develop it

Words by
Joseph Pratt

MAR 10, 2022

What Is Media Literacy? Definition and Examples

Understand media literacy, its benefits, and how to develop it


Defining Media Literacy

When we think about how children learn to read and write, we know they must understand letters, sounds, and word recognition. Becoming media literate requires those skills, and even more!

What is Media Literacy?

Simply put, media literacy is the skill set a person uses to analyze the media they consume. It empowers people to:

  • Recognize if information is true— from a credible source
  • Identify bias or the intent the creators have in mind
  • Identify the point of view used in the content
  • Determine which aspects of the information they rely on and which pieces are not useful or reliable

(Suwana, 2021, p. 154)

What Are Media Literacy Skills?

To judge the quality and intent of what kids consume online, they must combine critical thinking skills, analysis, research, evaluation, collaboration, and reflection. Children need the help of adults to be successful.

We consume incredible amounts of information in the digital age, much of which changes from day to day. Being media literate in the 21st century is essential. The best media consumers have media literacy skills. They consciously create and consume in a way that empowers them.

a smart phone with social media apps

Media Literacy Examples

The following list includes common media kids consume, along with examples of media literacy, essential skills for the 21st-century:

Instagram Ads

  • Recognizing filters
  • Questioning motives
  • Identifying false stories
  • Avoiding comparing yourself to others

TV Commercial & Print Ads

  • Identifying the product being advertised
  • Recognizing who is being targeted
  • Questioning claims to make sure they are true
  • Thinking about how the product could truly make your life better

News Articles

  • Identifying the biases of particular news networks and writers
  • Seeking the other side of the story
  • Fact checking
Definition of media literacy and the skills we need to be media literate

Why Is Media Literacy Important?

Media literacy is important to be better prepared to understand and interact with content (Leyn et al., 2020). With these skills, individuals will become critical thinkers who can navigate the opportunities and pitfalls of the digital world. They will be less prone to consumerism, believing biased news, comparing themselves to others, and dissatisfaction with life (Ferguson et al., 2021; Kurz et al., 2021; Schmuck et al., 2021).

The average person views over 3000 online ads every single day.

This media bombardment exposes us to a constant stream of products and ideas; think about 24-hour news cycles, push notifications, and the overload of over three thousand ads every day (Culatta, 2021, p. 13). We all need to master media literacy to keep ourselves safe, stay emotionally healthy, and maintain strong relationships.

Although young people are using digital media, we should not assume they are digitally literate.

—Dr. Renee Hobbs, Professor of Communication Studies, Harrington School of Communication and Media

What Does Media Literacy Mean for My Family and Me?

We’re unlikely to teach our children to read by simply lining the walls of their bedrooms with books. To help them become great readers, we read to them, teach them to identify the sounds letters make, help them string sounds together to make words, and are encouraging, patient, and consistent.

Similarly, our children will not develop media literacy independently while alone in their rooms with a smartphone (Hobbs, 2010, p. 26). Our kids need us to teach them these skills outright and provide them with plenty of opportunities to practice. In the digital age, these skills are as important as all of the in-person competencies necessary for success.

Developing Media Literacy Now: Activities for Families to Learn Together

It’s easy to practice media literacy skills informally with children of any age. Two perfect places to teach our children are while watching TV and on drives.

practice media literacy as a family on a drive or watching TV

You’ll be amazed how these talks will enable your children to create deeper and more complex analyses of the content they consume as they grow older. One day, you’ll be sitting at the dinner table discussing ideas and current events, knowing that your kids are critical thinkers with excellent skills.

At Gabb, in addition to being good digital citizens, we care about kids’ online safety and connection. Safe tech for kids is the solution!

Did we miss anything? How do you teach your kids media literacy? Let us know in the comments!

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