Media Literacy: Tips To Get Your Teen to Question Media Content

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Ivana Pejakovic, B.Sc., MA

There is a TON of content available on TV, the internet, in print, and on the radio. Much of the messaging teens and young adults are exposed to is absorbed into their minds. Once they absorb the information, they accept it as the truth. This information now becomes their guiding light on what to do and how to be.

The extent to which media will affect teens and young adults depends on how well they’re taught to critically think about what they’re exposed to. In fact, critical thinking is a powerful life skill and taking the time to guide your teen to be critical of what she is told will reduce others’ power over her.

Three important steps to reduce the impact of media:

1. Be picky. Demonstrate to your teen to be picky about what s/he is willing to watch. Just because there isn’t anything better to watch doesn’t make it OK to watch what is on at that time. Instead, teach her to put her time to better use: hobbies, use it for family time, etc. The best step for teens is to distance themselves from much of what they see, hear, and read. Remember, if they are exposed to it, they’ll be affected by the messages even if they’re aware of media persuasion methods. When picking suitable content, teach your teen to follow the 2 rules below:

a. If I wouldn’t like what I see, hear, or read about to materialize in my life, than it’s not suitable for viewing or reading.

b. If it makes me doubt my worth or how good I am, it doesn’t deserve my time.

2. Critical viewing and thinking. Many teens are just not taught to think critically; they accept what they hear and read as the truth. This means what they see, hear, and read soon becomes their benchmark for living. When viewing/ reading advertising, work with your teen to answer the following questions; it will help your teen think differently about what she sees.
a. Who created the media experience?
b. What are they hoping to gain?
c. What message are they sending (What are they implying…even if it isn’t said directly)? Are the messages true…are there other truths that counter this truth?
d. How does watching this commercial make me feel? Why do I feel this way?
e. Is this image/ video photoshopped? Why is it photoshopped? Will the product I purchase give me the same result as the photoshopped image?
f. Will this product enhance my life in the way they promise (teach her to pay attention to how many times she can actually answer with a confident “Yes”)?
g. Am I being told that I need this or want this? What is the truth?

3. Who makes it & why? This section is for your teen to think about who stands to gain what from sending out the message. The bottom line, of course, for almost all media is making money! To do this, the media creators entice the audience to purchase their product or service by convincing the viewers to believe their life is lacking if they don’t have this particular product. Take the time to observe and talk about what your teen enjoys watching/ reading so she’s aware of why she enjoys certain content.

Best Wishes to You and Your Family!

Ivana Pejakovic, Life Coach Toronto, Ontario

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Categories: media literacy