Reposted from I AM not the MEdia: Why teach teens and young adults about media literacy

As some of you know, I am currently working as Public Relations Coordinator at a Charlottean non-profit called I AM not the MEdia, Inc. One of my duties has been to revive and update their blog, which I gladly do every week. Sometimes, at the expense of not publishing anything here. This is one of the blog posts I published on our blog. It is meant to raise awareness to the importance of our mission, which is to teach teens and young adults about media literacy, helping them read the news and use social media in a critical way. I thought maybe it would be cool to repost it here for you guys as well. Here it goes:

I AM not the MEdia: Why teach teens and young adults about media literacy 

 

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Studying the psychosocial development of a person’s life cycle, Erik Erikson described adolescence as the stage of identity versus identity confusion. Between the ages of 13 and 19, teens are more likely to be influenced by their peers and their environment, often changing and experimenting different behaviors and activities while looking for answers about who they are and how they fit in society. Adolescents experience newly concerns about how they appear to others and start making their own decisions, despite how they were raised. One’s ideologies are now chosen by themselves, which often leads to conflicts with adults over political and religious orientations. Aptitudes and dreams are considered while choosing a career or a role in society, something that can lead to conflicts when parents feel the need to control and influence their child’s decision.True self discovery and identity comes when one reconciles with who you came to be in opposition with what society expects one to become. Also, it comes when one finds balance regarding what aptitudes he has and what he is going to do with it. These are important aspects of themselves teens need to figure out before entering adulthood.

On average, teens are exposed to the media 10 hours and 45 minutes per day, which includes engaging on social media, watching TV and playing video games. Considering teenagers are avid media consumers, one can only wonder at what extend the images and behaviors depicted by the media can influence teenagers, young adults and viewers in general. Sexuality, relationships, body image are some of the themes that seem to impact teens the most.

I AM not the MEdia, Inc. develops workshops for teens about media literacy believing that talking about unhealthy and risky behaviors and how they are portrayed on the media is the best way to provide teens with valuable information to be critical viewers of the media and informed decision makers. Ultimately, we give teens tools to think for themselves about how they want to be seen by others and what behaviors they can change to achieve their goals. We also work to send a strong message for people to embrace their individuality and uniqueness, hoping to build self esteem and their love for themselves.

Working for this organization has been such a challenge, and such a joy… Hopefully this post will help you guys see why.

 

Why “I AM NOT THE MEDIA”?

 

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About a month ago I started working as a Public/ Community Relations Intern for a non-profit based in Charlotte, NC called I AM NOT THE MEDIA, something that has been an amazing experience. IANTM’s mission is “To empower teens and young adults to become conscious viewer’s of the media, critical decision makers, and to embrace their individuality and uniqueness through media literacy and media creation“, something that spoke to me in so many ways, I wouldn’t know where to begin.  Since then, me and my co-workers at the Public Relations Department have come up with an internal campaign featuring all staff in self made videos sharing their views on our cause and answering the question: Why I am not the media?

I’ve outlined a text on my mind more than a thousand times, but here goes the final version:

I am not the media because I am a journalist who experienced first hand how news outlets manipulate their texts, images and videos in order to have more advertisers, readers or viewers and, obviously, more profit. I grew tired of how content was biased, many times just reinforcing common sense and forgetting the ethical standards that all journalists should be defending in order to stimulate democracy and a healthy exchange of ideas. But, mostly, I am not the media because I am a woman who refuses to recognize stereotypes as guidelines to what I should look like, dress, do, feel and value in life.”

I know every time someone talks about how mass media is sort of controlling our minds and manipulating news it sounds a little bit like we live in a world described beautifully by George Orwell in 1984. But, after studying the Frankfurt School in college, you can barely talk about the media without bringing up it’s capitalist socialist settling and it’s relation to power and profit in the western civilization.

Going back to IANTM, what caught my attention is the efforts they were making to educate teens and young adults on media literacy, giving them tools to look at the news, movies and other cultural products with criticism, challenging them and even, maybe, revolutionizing it by turning these teens into journalists, writers, bloggers, people who would give a voice for what they feel lacked or should change in the way news, movies, tv and social media behave nowadays. Empower, to me, would mean give them the tools to criticize and take action to make their communities better. Something that, from my point of view, will always be a win-win situation for all of us.