An exposition on media literacy education

The media, especially the new media, has become an integral part of many literate persons. Many people now solely rely on social media as a source of information on national issues and happenings. For many, social media has become an addiction and, in fact, a regular distraction.

As far back as 2010, Rideout, Foehr and Roberts reported that the media is one of the most powerful forces in the lives of young people in modern society and that young people spend an average of seven and a half hours with the media every day. This statistics would evidently have gone up after thirteen years.

Given the huge impact of the media, it is essential that users are enlightened on its deployment. In other words, this treatise will discuss media literacy, media literacy education and the relevance of this form of education in this age.

Olatunji and Akhagba (2013) explain media literacy as “the ability to effectively and efficiently access, analyse, evaluate, create, comprehend and utilise messages across a variety of contexts”. From this definition, we may want to say that many people who have got access to the media today are not literate.

Beyond being able to access information from the media, many are incapable of subjecting such information to evaluation and are even unable to process and comprehend such information. This deficiency makes it difficult for many people to decipher the actual intention of information and posts found in the media.

Media literacy, thus, demands that a person is able to subject a piece of information to critical thinking in order to establish the truth or falsity of such information, on the one hand; and to get the intention of the writer, on the other hand. Deciphering a writer’s intention is important because it is possible to add bias to truth for personal interest.

All of the aspects of media literacy, as enumerated in Olatunji and Akhagba’s definition, which are lacking in many people who source information (not, “source for information”!) from the media, are the essence of media literacy education. According to the National Association for Media Literacy Education, media literacy education is “the active inquiry and critical thinking about the messages we receive and create so as to develop informed, reflective, and engaged participants essential to a democratic society” (Culver & Redmond, 2019:2).

Media literacy education helps to build knowledge about the media so that people do not become unquestioning consumers of information from the media. This education affords consumers of information the depth to read in between the lines and make informed judgements and evaluation of whatever they read or listen to online. Rendered differently, readers are able to evaluate the media for accuracy and bias.

Essentially, media literacy education helps mitigate the impact of harmful media messages and unfounded reports. It also increases the awareness of citizens on the influence of the media. Nigerian media scholars such as Omolade Atofojomo have also established the importance of media literacy education in curbing media abuse among children in Nigeria.

Media literacy education has been reported to help develop critical thinking and viewing skills which help young ones in decision-making (Fuller and Damico 2008).

Moving on, media literacy education does not end at just the ability to interpret information got from the media accurately. In the words of Miailidis (2014), “media literacy education is about more than simply the interpretation and analysis of messages. It must also incorporate the larger environments and landscapes that are part of digital culture”. This implies that the media must be understood in line with the reality of its host country.

Read also: The value of a good education

For instance, during and after the 2023 Nigerian presidential election, much information found in the media was implicitly influenced and affected by the interests and biases of influential politicians who have power over the media. Such societal realities are also indices that must be factored into the consumption of information in the media. Essentially, media literacy education entails media production, reflective communicative practices, and promoting social and global engagement.

Despite the importance of this 21st century form of education, media literacy education has not even seen the light of day (not, “the light of the day”!) in Nigeria. Consequentially, there is the need for the government at both federal and state levels to seek the services of media literacy educators who will train the teachers on the rudiments, crux and instruments of media literacy education so that they can, in turn, teach students.

This form of education should also be incorporated into the curriculum of higher institutions of learning, as a component of general studies. Such knowledge will help reduce the fabrication and spread of fake news and unfounded information in the country, thereby birthing positive effects in many aspects of the country such as its democracy.

In conclusion, media literacy is essential knowledge in the 21st century, and it can only be adequately acquired through media literacy education. This piece is, therefore, a call to the government and private school owners to incorporate this form of education into the curriculum of schools in Nigeria at all levels.

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