Prisma is the world’s most engaging virtual school that combines a fun, real-world curriculum with powerful mentorship from experienced coaches and a supportive peer community.
Picture these scenarios:
In these everyday life examples, you’re using media literacy skills to make sense of the entertainment and information you encounter.
Media literacy is touted as one of the most important “21st century skills” for kids to master, in line with creativity, communication, and grit. Thinking through the amount of time most of us spend interacting with some form of media each day makes a good case for this. The 2022 Common Sense Media Census reported teens use media for an average of more than 8 hours per day, with tweens using media for more than 5 hours per day.
When I did media literacy research at Harvard, I discovered how hard it was for media researchers to keep up with this rapid change. Most schools aren’t designed to allow significant time for media literacy in the curriculum, either. At Prisma, we’re more passionate about teaching media literacy than the average school, because we believe helping kids become savvy media consumers is essential for their future success. In this article, we’ll unpack what media literacy is and how you can fill the gaps for your children at home, using examples from our favorite Prisma media literacy lesson plans.
You may have come across the term 'media literacy' and thought: sounds good, but what is it exactly? To break it down, let's first understand what we mean by media. Media encompasses a vast range of mass communication tools, from traditional forms of media like newspapers and television to modern ones such as websites and social media.
But what about literacy? Literacy isn't only about reading and writing—it extends to the skills we use to interpret, evaluate, and create content. Literacy skills in the context of media involve critically analyzing the messages we consume and understanding the motives behind them.
When referring to media literacy for kids, what people are often talking about is:
As we help young people navigate our heavily media-saturated world, media literacy education is key to making sure they're smart and thoughtful about what they come across.
One integral component of media literacy is the cultivation of healthy media consumption habits. Although the rise in screen use among kids can feel frightening, not all screen time is detrimental. Quality, purposeful content can be both enlightening and engaging, and learning the art of moderation will help your child use media in a healthy way as they mature.
Here's a breakdown of expert advice depending on age:
Regardless of age, the key is not to view screen time as a villain but to integrate it wisely into daily routines, ensuring it is a constructive experience.
At Prisma, we teach healthy media consumption through special challenges and missions embedded in our interdisciplinary themes. For example, in our Cyber Citizens theme, middle schoolers collected data about their own media usage and compared it to their peers. Then, they set goals for adjusting their usage. In our high school Life Skills course, learners studied the book Atomic Habits and built new habits, many choosing to focus on screen time reduction.
In our current media landscape, inundated with information that may or may not be “fake news,” news media literacy is paramount. This skill not only arms kids against misinformation and disinformation but also nurtures critical thinking skills, ensuring they can discern and understand our world’s complexity. At home, building news media literacy might look like guiding kids in analyzing a news story, understanding different perspectives, and critically evaluating the point of view presented.
Here are some age-appropriate strategies to nurture news media literacy specifically:
At Prisma, we teach news media literacy through weekly learner-led Current Events discussions in our daily Standup workshops. Middle and high school learners identify a topic in the news they want to talk about, and our learning coaches use resources like AllSides to facilitate discussions exploring different points of view.
We also teach learners how to cite & evaluate sources and compare conflicting sources of information through interdisciplinary themes like Unsolved Mysteries (where 4-8th graders chose a real-life mystery and researched evidence).
Popular platforms like TikTok and YouTube offer blends of entertainment, learning, and connection. Beyond the maze of misinformation, there's a personal journey of crafting and safeguarding one's digital identity.
Here's a roadmap to teaching kids about social media specifically:
At Prisma, we tackle digital media literacy consistently throughout the year, starting with our annual orientation preparing kids to safely learn virtually. Through fun missions and challenges, learners discover everything from how to convey meaning in texts and emails to how to use Google search to how to build their own personal website.
In our collaborative workshops, learners debate ethical issues of life online: Should ads be allowed to photoshop models and products? Should parents be allowed to post videos of their kids without their permission? Should there be laws against disinformation?
We believe through active engagement and open dialogue, we can empower kids to not only navigate but also shape their digital journey with awareness, responsibility, and integrity.
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