The need to actively teach media literacy

Lukanne Lowe


 “Media education should be to encourage young people to become more reflective about the ethical choices they make” while being a consumer of the media (Jenkins, 2007) 

The need to actively teach children about the media is due to the fact that children nowadays spend majority of their time with media, as a result, the media has an influence on children and we need to start to question and critically think about the intentions behind the ways the media portray ideas and reality. UNESCO (2006) claimed that children spend most of their leisure time with television, computer games, magazines and more. What parents and teachers are concerned about is the effect that television has on children’s behaviour and ultimately their thought process. While studying a medium, you can choose from different aspects. For example, with television, Buckingham (1991) states that you would look at the following:

Programme –  the ways in which they represent the world and the rules and conventions of specific genres,

Contexts – the contexts in which the programmes are transmitted, their place and location on the television schedule and how the programme is framed by television journalism and everyday conversations.

Organisations – who produces the programmes, ownership and control of broadcasting and the ways in which produces regard audiences.

Technologies – the technologies of production, distribution and reception.

Audiences – how audiences respond to and use television.

The media provides us with versions and representations of the world and give us information and ideas that shape and mould our view of reality. As a result, children and adults need to become critical thinkers and be competent readers and writers of media language. UNESCO goes on to say that “The media are, without any doubt, a highly significant aspect of contemporary children’s lives” (p.20). Similarly Crockett (2005) stated “we need to teach children, many of whom spend more time interacting with various forms of media than they do at school, to think about the images and messages that they receive” (p.269). Media literacy is relevant to children’s lives and by teaching children to think critically about the information and ideas received, it will allow children to be less vulnerable and help them make responsible media choices.

The Flow model (Messages are seen to flow in one direction, from producers, via media, to audiences) – Teaching about who produces a text, how it is produced. Then move onto the text form e.g written, visual and audiovisual forms. Lastly, the audience, who is the target audience, what is being promoted, deconstruct  and critically analyse the media message (Buckingham, 1991).

Producer –> Text –> Audience

                                                     (Message –> Medium)

Buckingham (1991) claims that we should teach about the media due to two significant assertions. Firstly, due to “the amount of time children spend with the media” (p.12) and secondly, due to the media having “such a major element in children’s lives, it seems self-evident that they must exert a very powerful influence on their ways of thinking about the world” (p.12).

This Youtube video helps develop a deeper understanding about the importance of teaching media literacy to children.


I taught an advertising unit in school, we looked at the different types of advertisements, the target audience, how the viewer/readers attention was captured and so on. As we deconstructed different forms of advertisements the students were very interested and enjoyed the lessons as they questioned and began to realise why certain images and messages were given in a particular way. Students began to think critically and look at advertisements in a different way. They very much enjoyed homework given out one lesson which was to go home and watch 4-5 ads and answer a set of questions that were given out to them. Students began to expand their vocabulary as they began to use words to talk about ads such as, slogans, taglines, effective targeting, target audience, stereotypes and more. At the end of the unit students were to form groups and construct and video record their own ads. Through these lessons, students were able to see the ads in the media in a different way from before. They began to engage in discussions and question and analyse what they were seeing and reading.

I thought media literacy was about teaching through the media but I now come to understand that it is teaching about the media and the importance of thinking critically and creatively. The media is constantly around us and plays a huge part in our learning and in our future. It is important to teach about the media so that responsible and informed decisions can be made about what we see and read. We should be thinking more critically and questioning and analysing what we see and hear in the different media forms around us.



 Buckingham, D. (1991). Teaching about the media. In D. Lusted (Ed.), The media studies book: A guide for teachers (pp. 12-35). London, England: Routledge [original chapter written in 1986]

Crockett, C. (2005). Media literacy: A powerful tool for parents and teachers. Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education, 104(1), 269-274.

Jenkins, H., Purushotma, R., Weigel, M., Clinton, K., & Robison, A. J. (2007). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st century (part two). Nordic Journal of Digital Literacy (Digital Kompetanse), 2(2), 97-113.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. (2006). Media Education: A kit for teachers, students, parents and professionals. Retrieved from

Image references



One thought on “The need to actively teach media literacy

  1. It’s great to hear your experiences in teaching critical media literacy skills to others. It made me smile when you wrote about the children being excited about homework! Just goes to show that when children are engaged, learning is fun and worthwhile. It’s importance in education is well stated here.

    Liked by 1 person

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