“Experts tips and tricks for helping your younglings think critically about what they see on TV and social media.” M. Herbst, Wired Magazine
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key
“What does it mean for a kid to be media literate? It sounds generally positive and important, like a good dental checkup or a flawless report card. The field is broad and definitions vary, but the main thrust of literacy education is to prepare our children to be adept at accessing, creating, and thinking critically about all types of media.
How We Parent
As parents, we can struggle to wrap our heads around a carousel of premium, user-friendly, and questionably educational media choices…Among millennials the first generation are now mothers—but their recollections of navigating AOL Instant Messenger and Napster as tweens haven’t necessarily prepared them to curate a child-friendly media diet in 2020.
According to the latest research, though, encouraging your children to think critically about the media they’re consuming is much more important than playing screen-time babysitter…Basic media literacy skills are like a second alphabet for the digital age, and fostering them in our children involves asking questions and being an active participant in their media consumption.
Here are some age-appropriate tips from a handful of media literacy experts who also happen to moonlight as parents…Developmental psychologists say that children younger than 7 or 8 simply can’t understand the persuasive intent behind commercials. Because of this cognitive limitation, media literacy efforts have long ignored this younger age group, focusing on middle and high school students instead.
But media literacy, like any other skill, can benefit from a strong foundation in the early years, according to Faith Rogow, an expert in early childhood literacy and the founding president of the National Association for Media Literacy Education. ‘It’s easier to help children develop habits around media use, inquiry, and reflection in the early years than it is to wait until they are defiant middle schoolers,’ Rogow says…You can also play the ‘What are they trying to sell?’ game with kids this age, Rogow says. During a commercial break, see who in the family can be the first to guess what the ad is trying to sell. Most of all, parents should be aware of their own media habits.
At the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library in North Carolina, media literacy educator and doctoral student Jimmeka Anderson helped establish an ‘active reading’ program for young kids. ‘With active reading, parents do not read the words in the book,’ Anderson says. ‘As you go through the pictures in the book, you’re asking questions like, ‘What color is this bear? What do you think the bear is going to do?’ Anderson says this is a way to build media literacy skills beginning in preschool, equipping kids to become critical thinkers… Ian O’Byrne is a digital literacy researcher and former grade school teacher, but he also has two very accessible research subjects: his son, 9, and daughter, 4. O’Byrne, along with five other researcher-parents, conducted a study on an oft-overlooked branch of digital literacy—information security and algorithms, specifically how children interact with and understand them…He acknowledges that even most adults don’t fully comprehend what happens to our information online or on the internet of things, so getting a more thorough grasp of digital security and information-sharing is an important place for parents to start.
O’Byrne and his colleagues haven’t yet published their results, but he says they’ve found two effective strategies that stand out. The first is to find a teachable moment or ‘approach point’ to discuss these issues with your children.
For O’Byrne, the moment came when his son, who has a Google Hangouts account to keep in touch with his parents and a few select friends, was messaged by a complete stranger. He brought it to my attention and I said, ‘Look, this is what you need to be concerned about,’ and we talked about privacy and security,’ O’Byrne said.
Creating that situation is the second strategy. It can take the form of talking about something in the news or finding a good picture book or story, or even using a real-life situation your children are familiar with, like a playground, to discuss security concepts. The next time you snap a photo together at the park or a restaurant, try asking your child if it’s all right that you post it to social media. Use the opportunity to talk about who can see that photo and show them your privacy settings.
The [Tweens] Teens
Perhaps the most vulnerable period for children engaged with media are the much maligned teenage years. Teens are forming their identities, experimenting with and exposing themselves to all sorts of new experiences on their journey to adulthood.
At this stage, a lot of parents sign off from regulating their kids’ media consumption, but Anderson says this is a critical mistake.
‘Parents have got to stick with them the whole way through,’ Anderson says. ‘That’s the age of identity development, when they’re trying to figure out who they are. If you’re trying to figure out who you are and you haven’t figured it out, media will tell you who you should be, or who you should try to be.’
Anderson started a program in 2011 called I Am Not the Media, a nonprofit that educates teens about media literacy and messaging.
She focuses particularly on marginalized communities, where representation in the media is often not positive and can influence teens’ perceptions of themselves…Parents should take on more of an advisory role during the teen years, she says.
It’s still important to have restrictions, but we’re not equipping them for the world if we shield them from it entirely. Anderson suggests that parents work with their kids to come up with reasonable limits. Excessive social media use is linked to depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues, so come to an agreement with your child about how much is too much. It’s also important to follow your kids’ social media accounts. ‘I can still engage with you and see the content that you’re posting, because if you can’t share it with me, you shouldn’t share it at all,’ Anderson says.
Teens also engage more actively with news. A 2017 report by Common Sense Media, a nonprofit that promotes media education, found that among kids between age 10 and 18, 39 percent get their news from online sources, most often Facebook and YouTube.
Parents often don’t realize that their children are taking in news through these platforms, says Kelly Mendoza, the senior director of education programs at Common Sense Media. ‘It’s more difficult to determine fact versus fiction when it comes to social media.’
Only 44 percent of kids feel confident that they can tell fake news from real news, according to the same 2017 report.
In its curriculum for middle and high school students, Common Sense uses a technique called lateral reading. If you find a piece of information, you try to see if you can corroborate it with another source. Ideally, parents should encourage kids to verify information through trusted news outlets…On the flip side, kids in this age range trust news they hear from their parents more than any other source.
Across the board, experts agree that staying informed and media savvy as an adult is critical. If you don’t have a clue what’s going on in the run-up to the presidential election, or what the fluff Fortnite is all about, you’d be hard pressed to help your children understand it.
We’re more likely to believe things that we hear from our friends and family than from any random information source,” Anderson says. ‘So you are a form of media, and it’s important for you to vet the information that you’re sharing as well.’
The authoritarian ‘Because I said so’ refrain of old has been linked to lower academic performance and poor emotional regulation.”
Here are the books, apps, podcasts, and websites the experts recommend.
A guide to screens in moderation for busy families: The Art of Screen Time: How Your Family Can Balance Digital Media and Real Life by Anya Kamenetz
A non-Draconian guide to media for younger kids: Screen Time: How Electronic Media—From Baby Videos to Educational Software—Affects Your Young Child by Lisa Guernsey
An app created by the News Literacy Project that features a game quiz-style approach to teaching literacy on the go: Informable
A news app specifically curated for 7- to 10-year-olds: News-O-Matic
NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.
Level: Intermediate – Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 2 hours.
Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.
Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and improving oral skills. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.
Predictions: Using a Pre-reading Organizer
Directions: Have students to examine the title of the post and of the actual article they are about to read. Then, have them examine the photos. Ask students to write a paragraph describing what they think this article will discuss. Students can use a Pre-reading organizer for assistance.
II. While Reading Activities
Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.
- What does it mean for a kid to be media literate?
- The main force of literacy education is to prepare our children to be adept at thinking critically about all types of media.
- Millennials, the first generation of digital users are now mothers and are not prepared to curate a child-friendly media diet in 2020.
- Encouraging your children to think critically about the media is very important.
- Basic media literacy skills need to be fostered in our children.
- The ice cream was not at all edible.
- The jubilant ponytailed girl on the commercial was enjoying the gloop.
- Parents shouldn’t wait until their kids are defiant middle schoolers.
- Help kids by teaching them to take an active role in their consumption of pictures and other visual media.
- Perhaps the most vulnerable period for children engaged with media are the much maligned teenage years.
Grammar Focus: Structure and Usage
Directions: The following groups of sentences are from the article. One of the sentences in each group contains a grammatical error. Students are to identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.
- According to the latest research parents should encourage children to think critically.
- Basic media literacy skills is like a second alphabet for the digital age.
- Here are some age-appropriate tips from a handful of media literacy experts.
- Media literacy, like any other skill, can benefit about a strong foundation in the early years.
- It’s easier to help children develop habits around media use in the early years.
- Most of all, parents should be aware of their own media habits.
- Think of it like driving, we’re not going to turn over the car keys to our toddlers.
- With active reading, parents do not read the words in the book.
- An way to build media literacy skills beginning in preschool.
Identify The Speakers
Directions: Place students in groups. Hand out the following quotes from speakers in the article. Members are to identify the speakers from the article.
- “Think of it like driving, We’re not going to turn over the car keys to our toddlers, so we aren’t exactly teaching them to drive yet, but they are learning about rules of the road from what we do.”
- “With active reading, parents do not read the words in the book. “As you go through the pictures in the book, you’re asking questions like, ‘What color is this bear? What do you think the bear is going to do?’”
- “These algorithms make decisions about our lives…We started to wonder, when should we start talking to individuals about algorithms and power and about trust and truth in these tools? How do we explain this to our kids?”
- “Parents often don’t realize that their children are taking in news through these platforms.”
Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing
Directions: Place students in groups and have them discuss the following questions/statements. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics mentioned.
According to the article at what age should parent begin teaching children about digital media? Why?
When it comes to media literacy which age group is the most popular? Why?
According to Faith Rogow, “It’s easier to help children develop habits around media use, inquiry, and reflection in the early years than it is to wait until they are defiant middle schoolers.” Why does she make this statement?
Describe a game Rogow suggests playing with children at a young age.
According to the article, what is the most vulnerable period of a child’s life? What reasons are given for this vulnerability?
According to Jimmeka Anderson, “At this stage, a lot of parents sign off from regulating their kids’ media consumption, but Anderson says this is a critical mistake.”
What stage is Anderson referring to and what advice does she offer parents?
After reading this article name at least one thing new that you’ve learned. Name something that you did not understand. Was there anything you felt should have been included in the article? Discuss what you’ve learned with your group members and share as a class.