“But Miss. Women like to be controlled by their men. It says so in that Mary J Blige song.”
This was an actual comment spoken to Shae at one of her groups this week. Ironically, it was while they were covering media literacy! We therefore thought that this week’s youth work session plan idea should provide some media literacy activities for young people.
What is media literacy?
Before you start running any of these activities, ask your young people “What is media literacy?” To help them define this, split the phrase into its two separate words and get them to define both “media” and “literacy”.
When defining media, get the youth to list all the different types of media they come across – music, TV, movies, newspapers, internet, magazines, billboards, adverts, video games, apps, etc.
Once they’ve defined what “literacy” is, get them to put the two definitions together so that they have a better understanding of the answer to “What is media literacy?”
Next, look at these different types of media and explore some of the messages that they communicate. Have the young people think critically about these messages:
- Do they have some kind of bias?
- What message are they sending?
- Is their message true?
- Why might this type of media not tell the truth about a situation?
- Do you think they have any ulterior motives
- Can you trust this type of media?
Media Literacy Activities – Music
There are all kinds of songs that you could use to explore media literacy. One example we thought might be useful is Poker Face by Lady Gaga, as you can use it to explore the issue of media literacy and sexuality due to the lyric:
And baby when it’s love if it’s not rough it isn’t fun
Ask your youth what message this lyric is sending about sex. Is it true? Go through the other questions listed above.
Media Literacy Activities – Internet
When Shae was doing a lesson on alcohol awareness this week, she told them that contrary to popular belief, alcohol doesn’t make you sleepy. One of the young people responded “That’s wrong – it does make you sleepy. Just check on the internet”.
Although we joke that “you can’t trust what’s on the internet”, to a large extent we do trust what’s on there. Here are a few ideas though of ways you can explore with your young people whether they can trust what’s on the internet:
- Facebook status updates of friends
- Twitter trends about celebrity deaths
- Banner ads that say you’ve won a special prize
Media Literacy Activities – News
In theory, news can fall under all different types of media – internet, TV, newspapers, etc. – so this can be looked at from many different angles.
One suggestion for exploring this issue is using newspapers. Get copies of newspapers that provide a contrast to the political divide. For example, in the US you could use the Wall Street Journal for a right-wing outlook and the New York Time for a left-wing outlook. In the UK, you could use the Telegraph for right-wing and the Guardian for left-wing.
Find a story (preferably with a political slant) that’s reported in both newspapers. Have your young people identify what aspects of the story are the same in the papers and what aspects are different. Are opinions presented as facts? Is there emotive language used to make an argument to the readers?
To generate further conversation, ask your young people what killed Whitney Houston. Many of the early news reports stated that it was due to drug abuse, so this is what’s often believed. The coroner’s report though stated that although cocaine use was a contributing factor to her death, she died from accidental drowning. Ask your youth why news reports were so keen to suggest that her death was due to drug use rather than as an accident.
Media Literacy Activities – Advertising
There are so many examples that you could use with your youth, but here are a couple to get you started:
1) Nutella – There was recently a class action lawsuit against the makers of Nutella, as one of their adverts was deemed to have falsely given the impression that it was more healthy and nutritional than it actually is. I know, a chocolate spread with nuts in it isn’t healthy?! Here’s more about the story with a 2 & 1/2 minute video explaining what happened.
2) Smoking – Looking back, TV ads about smoking were ridiculous but at the time many people believed they were safe/had health benefits. Show the video below to your young people and see what they think about it. Can they think of any adverts nowadays that seem to espouse benefits that they think are untrue?
Media Literacy Activites – Movies
Again, there are all kinds of different movies that you could use to explore the messages that they send. Depending on the issues you’re working on with your young people though, this could be a good opportunity to address the issue of porn and how it affects their perception of sex and relationships.
Do they think porn movies accurately reflect relationships? If working with males, ask them if they think that women like to be treated the way that they are in porn.
Question: What media literacy activities would you run with young people? We’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments below.
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