In the 21st century, adolescents aged 14-18 are bombarded by information of a volume and frequency unthinkable just a few years ago. What they absorb shapes their opinions and beliefs, their knowledge, and ultimately their behavior; influencing, in turn, the way they operate within—and contribute to—their communities and society at large.
As media exposure has never been higher, it is important that adolescents are conscious and aware of the information they encounter and are able to understand it and evaluate it from a critical perspective.
In the 21st century, critical media literacy is an imperative not only for the wellbeing of individuals themselves—imagine the young person unable to discern between valid and fallacious health advice–but for peacebuilding, public safety, and participatory democracy.
Media literacy can empower youth to be positive contributors to society, to challenge indoctrination and anti-social messages, and to serve as agents of social change.
The aim is to help adolescents become competent critical thinkers, literate in all media forms they encounter, empowering young people to exercise agency over the interpretation of what they see, hear, and read.
The critical media literacy curriculum, presented here, is a non-formal educational response that expands the notion of literacy to include different forms of mass communication and new technologies, such as TV, social media and online portals. It deepens the potential of critical thinking to analyze relationships between media, audiences, and information.
A problem with media culture is that it can advance sexism, radicalism, ethnocentrism, homophobia, and other forms of prejudice, and contribute to the proliferation of misinformation, problematic ideologies, and questionable values, accordingly promoting a dialectical approach.
“Blind” dependency on media surrenders youth’s active participation and civic duties to question, challenge, and correct social injustices. This is why it is crucial that adolescents are empowered to recognize this dynamic, to approach information critically, to identify and examine bias, and to judge the value, authenticity, and authority of the information they encounter.
Fundamentally, critical media literacy encourages participatory culture. Participatory culture in turn increases peer learning, shifts attitudes about intellectual property, diversifies cultural expressions, develops workplace skills, and empowers conceptions of citizenship.