MARBLEHEAD, MA – A hotly contested election, a global scourge and the effects of this year-round scourge are causing students across the country to spend much more time alone on their computers and much less time surrounded by people with different opinions combined to make a growing concern a critic for media literacy advocates over the past year.
For Louise Weber of Marblehead, who saw her own children bombarded with online opinions, advertisements and targeted content as they grew up in the unexplored era of smartphones and tablets, it made her job as head of research for the national nonprofit Media Literacy Now as vital as ever.
âWe believe that media literacy is literacy and that young people need to know how to decode the information they receive in all of its forms,â Weber told Patch. âAll children should be able to interpret, understand and analyze what they see and hear. They must learn to think about why they see and hear it so that they can make informed decisions, consume critically and analyze all the media that comes their way at this time. “
Media Literacy Now is a non-partisan organization which provides toolkits and school curricula for media literacy programs. As Research Director, Weber helps track media law activity across the country for the organization’s website.
Whether it’s through biased media coverage, social media algorithms that funnel certain content to consumers, or simply product placement, Media Literacy Now seeks to give young people the tools to understand when they are presents information objectively and when sold an invoice for goods.
âIt’s just as important as reading and writing,â said Weber, a native of Marblehead whose son attended Belmont schools and daughter went to middle and high school in Marblehead. âWe give our kids a device and we don’t really give them guidelines and rules for what they see. We have to educate them on how to critically use these very pervasive and powerful forms of media.
“This is very concerning. This is the age of alternate facts. I think a lot of media providers would like you to believe their message is the only message you need to hear. But it isn’t. “
Weber said she believed the seeds for the current crisis in media literacy were sown in 1987 when the “fairness doctrine” – which required media companies licensed by the Federal Communications Commission to present the issues. of compelling interest in a fair and precise manner – has been abolished.
What has followed has been the rise of wired news networks that are more inclined to tell their audiences what they want to hear rather than what they need to know, as well as websites that profit from influencing. everything from political beliefs to where to buy blue jeans and LEGOs. While targeted advertising to young people has been around for decades – the sugary cereal ads during Saturday morning cartoons, for example – it was much easier to monitor when there were four FCC licensed local channels at the same time. television that now where there is unlimited internet.
âIt’s about teaching students how to assess motivation,â Weber said. âWhy do you see this ad for any product? Why do you see it presented this way?
“It’s about teaching students to ask questions and not to just sit there blindly and accept whatever is presented to them.”
Learn more about Weber’s work with Media Literacy Now Here.
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(Scott Souza is a Patch Field Editor covering Beverly, Danvers, Marblehead, Peabody, Salem and Swampscott. He can be reached at [email protected] Twitter: @Scott_Souza.