What Is Media Literacy?

Media literacy is the process of evaluating, analyzing, accessing and creating media by using critical thinking about the messages received. When people are media literate, they can understand and decipher fact from fiction when faced with complex messages in the media.

Media messages derive from the Internet, radio, television, magazines, newspapers, books, advertisements, billboards, music and video games. In addition, people are able to access media messages through smart phones, tablets and mobile devices on a regular basis. To digest media messages and form educated opinions, people are encouraged to think critically about the purpose and goal of the message's provider, as opposed to simply accepting all forms of media as truth.

Media literacy has become a staple in educational settings to help children and adults understand how messages from the media can shape society and cultures, according to the Media Literacy Project. In addition, media literacy skills also help people identify target marketing strategies, identify the techniques of persuasion used in media, recognize misinformation, lies and bias, and uncover how media messages can be skewed or present partial versions of an event or idea.

Media literacy skills may also prompt people to advocate for changes within the media system, create or distribute customized messages through various forms of media, including broadcast, print and social media, and evaluate media messages honestly based on values, beliefs and experiences.