Sunday, May 1, 2011

Becoming Media Savvy

What would it be like if we couldn‘t read or write? How would you use the internet? It would be impossible to get a job. In today‘s society, reading and writing are essential skills. Or can you imagine living in a foreign country and not knowing the language? Simple things like using the transportation system or ordering from a menu at a restaurant would be challenging.

Knowing the language is essential for navigating through life. Just as we need to be able to read and write, developing media skills is now just as important. Media has its own unique language. It consists of design, structure, meaning, and syntax. John 8:32 tells us that the truth will set us free. We need to know the truth and not just what anybody calls truth. Is what the media communicates to us really the truth? Or is it a distortion of reality? Understanding the tools and language of media will help us to be discerning. By not understanding the language of media, we are held captive to any message which the media wishes to communicate. Our goal as Christians is not to be subject to the control and influence of media.

We now live in a media culture that surrounds and envelopes every element of life. Our best defense is to become media savvy. For the most part, we don‘t understand what we are being exposed to. For example, we would consider a G or PG movie to be relatively safe. And we would view most R-rated movies as offensive. But in reality, the G or PG movie today could contain more anti-Christian and anti-Biblical content than the R-rated movie. In fact, the R-rated movie could be a redemptive film which embraces Biblical views. Often we make assumptions that are not based on the facts.

Most people, including Christians, consume media without processing its purpose, goals, and message. We don‘t ask challenging questions about its authenticity. Therefore we become sponges absorbing everything we see and hear.

How do movies or television shows or any media affect my decisions, values, and behaviors? Have you ever thought about it? Do you assume they don‘t affect us? Do you think it is something we should consider? These questions could be answered in a media literacy program.

What is media literacy? In the past three years, I have taught media literacy to over 100 students. Only five students had ever heard of the subject. Media literacy teaches and unlocks the language of media, which contains five elements. (1) It helps to define the message media communicates. (2) it reveals the purpose behind the message. (3) It identifies how the message impacts the individual. (4) It identifies how the message influences behaviors and shapes perceptions in society. (5) It offers resources on how we can take control of our response to the message.

We cannot simply turn off the television or unplug from society. God is calling us to be good stewards of the media we consume. Our responsibility is to distinguish the truth from the untruth because both are present in our media. God can use both truth and untruth to point us to his love and glory.

Learning media literacy is equivalent to wearing a radiation suit. It allows us to live in our society without being exposed to the negative effects that can harm us. We are influenced by people around us as well as our institutions. Our exposure to the media culture not only comes from our firsthand exposure, such as movies and television programs. It also comes from secondhand exposure, such as family, friends, work associates and society in general.

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