What is Media Literacy?

  “Why is it that we are surrounded, we are immersed in our media, and we still have educators and legislative bodies saying ‘We don’t need to learn this’?…I think the value of media education goes so much beyond need...we deserve to learn about it.” Allison Butler, Phd

In 2015 Common Sense Media released a report stating, on average a teen in the United States spends 9 hours a day using media. The Nationwide Children's Hospital notes that the average teen gets between 7 and 7 1/2 hours of sleep per night. Even my inability to understand mathematics can deduce that 9+7=18, and that 24-18=4. Teens, therefore, only spend 4 hours of their day awake and free from the media. Our lives revolve around our media, and yet we have almost no formal education on how to critically analyze it.

Allison Butler, an advisor and lecturer at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, has recently launched a certificate program for Media Literacy. An up and coming concentration to Media Studies, Media Literacy centers around the ability to think critically of our own media. How do social media effect the way we construct our identities? What can we learn about the representation of minorities from our favorite TV shows? What does the evening news teach us about third world countries? It seems, the media can provide our youth a much greater understanding of themselves and their world; that is only, if we teach them.