Carnegie Corporation Endorses Media Literacy Education for Young Adolescents

Posted with permission of the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

In Great Transitions: Preparing Adolescents for a New Century, the 1996 concluding report of the Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development, the authors noted:

"At the threshold of the twenty-first century, media are an ever more pervasive presence in the lives of young adolescents. As heavy users of television, radio, film and computers, adolescents are aggressively targeted as a profitable consumer market by advertiisers. Their lives are saturated with entertainment and advertising, their capacity to make sense of messages from this array of powerful sources of influence is essential to their development.

...Media literacy education provides the opportunity for young adolescents to be active, critical consumers of media's messages. Together with families, community organizations and schools, media-savvy adolescents may shape their own media environment in the next century."

The report further identified media literacy as one of the ways to promote the Constructive Potential of the Media: "...Educators, families, and others can help enhance the constructive potential of the media in the following ways:

  • Encourage socially responsible media programming.

    Three decades of research point to a consistent, causal linkage between exposure to violence on television and aggressive behavior in children and adolescents. Violence is not the only issue, however. The media also shape adolescents' views of everything from gender, ethnic, and occupational roles to standards of beauty, family life, and sexuality. Writers, producers, directors and executives should recognize how important positive images are and work with experts on child and adolescent development so that such knowledge can be taken into account.

  • Support public efforts to make the media more adolescent friendly.

    American media basically regulate themselves when it comes to their influence on children and adolescents. Some film and television personalities, for example, try not to glamorize the use of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs. Yet much more is needed. For example, every other Western nation has stronger regulations than the United States to foster educational programming for children.

  • Make media literacy programs a part of school curricula, of youth and community organizations activities, and of family life.

    Adolescents absorb a very large number of media messages every day, yet many lack the skill to analyze and evaluate those messages critically. Designed to help young people identify the media's underlying assumptions about the world, training in media literacy should cover the whole spectrum of contemporary media - including newspapers, magazines, radio, television, videos, music, computer programs, and electronic games

  • Use the media for comprehensive health promotion campaigns.

    Successfully influencing young people's attitudes and behaviors requires a consistent message from all social institutions that touch young people's lives. Families, schools, health care agencies, community organizations, and the media must all work together to promote messages that encourage healthy behavior. Community-wide campaigns using public service announcements in the television, radio, and print media have successfully promoted smoking cessation and physical fitness among adolescents. The entertainment industry has particular power when it comes to influencing behavior; film makes should be persuaded to depict health-enhancing behavior on the big screen.

  • Expand opportunities to include young people's views in the media and to involve them in media production.

    Media should increase the number of young voices in their publications and programs through the publication and broadcast of editorial opinions, news stories, and videos written or produced by young adolescents. Some schools have shown that this can be a useful part of education.