How to Improve Your Media Literacy

While it really should be, media literacy is currently not a mandatory subject taught in most schools. It's up to us to educate ourselves and the children in our lives. Some babies are playing with iPads before they can walk, so I'm concerned about what the future may hold for them.

With the amount of media that bombards us every day, it's impossible to be in complete control of what goes in our brains, but strengthening our analytical and evaluative skills can keep us vigilant.

Here are some simple tools and resources you can use to question whether what you're seeing in the media is truthful or fake news. Improve your media literacy now. Pin
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5 Questions to Ask When Engaging with Media

I highly recommend watching the Crash Course YouTube channel's miniseries on media literacy. These 12 videos take you from the history of media to what we can anticipate in the future. If you don't have time to take a university course on media literacy, this is the next best thing.

Video #11: Media Skills gives you tips on navigating the diverse media landscape. Around the 3:31 mark, we're presented with the 5 questions media literacy scholar Renee Hobbs recommends asking ourselves when engaging with media.

1. Who created this message, and what is the purpose?

2. What techniques does it use to attract and hold attention?

3. What lifestyles, values, and points of views does it depict?

4. How might different people interpret this message?

5. What is omitted, or left out?

Practice this on that Facebook article you suspect might be fake news, those ads that keep following you around the Internet, or the original promo video for the infamous Fyre Festival.

It wouldn't hurt to install the NewsGuard plugin on your browser, which tells you which news sites are reliable and which seem suspicious.

The C.R.A.P. Test

Another way to weed out fake news is by using The C.R.A.P. Test.

Currency—Is the content up to date?

Reliability—Is it fact-based or opinion? Does it use valid sources and data? If opinion, is it balanced?

Authority—What are the credentials of the author? Who is the publisher or sponsor of the research?

Purpose/Point of View—Why does this content exist? Is it biased, trying sell you something, or push an agenda? If so, does the author make that clear?

Psychology in Advertising

Many of us think we're too smart for ads and we can simply ignore them, but the reality is that advertising, even an image we see for a split second, affects us whether we like it or not.

Advertising firms are using cognitive research to influence us, so it's good to know just exactly what tricks they are using to get us. This video shows the sophisticated methods some commercials employ

Watch these 9 documentaries to increase media literacy.

I also recommend reading the classic book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert  B. Cialdini, PhD. Not only is it extremely funny and engaging, you learn the six principles of why we say yes to things. This is a salesman's bible, con men too, so reading this also keeps us sharp to the tactics others use to influence and manipulate us.

If you forget everything else from this post, just remember not to take anything you see and hear in the media at face value. Be savvy so you can get a better glimpse of what's behind the smokescreen.

Do you have more tools and resources to improve media literacy? Let us know in the comments below.

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