From Texas Standard:
As the delta variant of COVID-19 sweeps the country, cases and hospitalizations are on the rise, especially in places with relatively low vaccination rates. And there’s a real and growing concern that the misinformation flourishing in some of these places is having a direct effect on people’s healthcare decisions.
But one tool that could help weed out this misinformation is media literacy. Yvonnes Chenwho studies media literacy and health at the University of Kansas, told Texas Standard that giving people the tools to better distinguish fact from fiction in the media they consume could help them take better decisions about their health.
“I think it’s important to understand the purpose of each media message and the motivations behind each media producer. And it’s also important to recognize that each media message has its own values and points of view,” Chen said.
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Knowing your own level of media literacy is the first step to becoming a more informed consumer of health news and information. Chen says everyone should ask themselves if they feel confident in telling facts from lies. And they also need to be aware of what they read, watch, listen to and interact with online.
“When everyone is reading a short story, it’s important to ask yourself, umm, who’s writing this? What is the media organization behind this? What might be the motives and, perhaps, the views of the potential media organization? What about the author: Does the author have enough background knowledge and information to be knowledgeable enough to tell me more about what I need to know about this piece ? Chen said.
These are all crucial questions to ask, especially during the pandemic. According to Chen, while many factors, such as religious beliefs and upbringing, can contribute to a person’s healthcare decisions, the media one consumes can also play an important role.
“We are certainly seeing that the consumption of misinformation, especially staying in a siled media environment, is impacting people’s hesitancy towards vaccination as well as their general understanding of the mask mandate,” said Chen.
Anyone can improve their media literacy at any age, says Chen. But there are programs aimed at teaching media literacy to high school students in English classes. The approach is similar to literary criticism, she says, in which a student learns to consider an author’s background and where and when they wrote a particular piece to better understand its message.
Chen says developing media literacy, including a healthy dose of skepticism, is important for people’s overall health during the pandemic and beyond.
“Media literacy can be applied to a number of contexts, including substance use prevention, sugary drinks…obesity, nutrition education,” she said. “The thing is, when we feel like we know enough, we actually don’t know much. And I think that media education embodies this attitude that everyone has the capacity to develop.
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