From media literacy to media empowerment and media wellness – the subject is more urgent than ever!
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Without a doubt, humanity has become dependent on media for all aspects of life. Our so-called social obligation makes it impossible for us to stop using social media, because we feel as though we would lose our social network and even considerable quality of life. With the metaverse in prospect – that is, the possibility that we will live in both the physical world and several virtual worlds at the same time – it’s starting to become clear: we need to wake up! The importance of updating our media literacy teaching has never been so urgent, according to Liesbeth Hop.
In the nineties, we included media education in our curricula, with a focus on teachers explaining the media to pupils. It was soon replaced by the term media literacy, because we understood that we needed to shift the focus to improving our pupils’ skills and attitudes instead. But this way of thinking is already heavily outdated, as well.
Steps 1 and 2: to Know and to Feel
We have now learned from extensive research that creating media awareness and knowledge is not enough to empower people to use media to their advantage. In order to teach a person how the media affect his or her life, you need to make them feel possible consequences. Which seems logical, as media touch our emotions almost by definition.
For example, if you wish to make teenagers aware of privacy risks, you should not just explain to them that it is not wise to share personal information with just anyone, but you have to make them feel the importance of keeping their information private and safe. In order to reach this goal, you could ask them to unlock their mobile phones and hand them over to their neighbour in class. The immediate reluctance they will experience is enough to make your point more effectively! Every successful media literacy lesson therefore reaches out to both the intellectual and the emotional part of a human being.
Steps 3 and 4: to Want and to Do
Stimulating people to use their intrinsic motivation in order to deal with media in a responsible way increases the effectiveness of the lesson even more. The appropriate question you can ask your students to reflect on is: why is it important to you to keep your personal information safe?
Finally, pupils should create their own media coping strategy, which could be different for each individual. The question you can ask here is: how will you act in order to keep your information safe?
Media Empowerment and Well-Being
Because this teaching method stimulates people to feel and think for themselves, we called it media empowerment. These four steps of media empowerment (To Know, To Feel, To Want, To Do) create the most effective media literacy lessons.
We recently started to understand that media are even decisive for human well-being, looking at the role of media in our physical health, self-sustainability, participation in society, ambition, identity and happiness. Media well-being is studying how media can contribute to these aspects of well-being. We answer questions such as:
- Which apps can help you to improve your physical health?
- How do media ensure you can be an independent person?
- How can a dating app improve your participation in society, your sense of identity and your happiness?
- How can media help you to reach your professional and private goals?
- How can media support you to become the person you wish to be?
We consider this teaching of media well-being the future of media literacy, because it matches the great importance of media in present human lives.
Liesbeth P.M. Hop (firstname.lastname@example.org, see also LinkedIn) is the founder and CEO of the Dutch Academy for Media and Society, a well-respected authority on media literacy research and teaching in Europe. In 2007 the Academy developed the National MediaCoach Training Programme for teachers and in 2015 provided the National Media Passport programme for schools.