The importance of media literacy in our media-driven culture

300 DPI Illustration of a young girl surrounded by technology. TNS 2016

The average American spends up to 12 hours each day interacting with media, according to eMarketer’s latest report. More time is spent watching TV and scrolling through social media than getting a good night’s rest. Our society has become a media-driven culture, yet few universities offer classes that teach students how to consume media with a critical eye.

To fully grasp the media that engulf our society, it should be mandatory for colleges to offer media literacy courses. The Center for Media Literacy defines media literacy as the ability to access, analyze, evaluate and create communications in all forms using media and digital technology.

While taking an introduction to mass communications course at California State University, Northridge, I learned about the concept of media literacy and the importance of developing media literacy skills from Dr. Bobbie Eisenstock. After the semester was over, I was able to look at an advertisement, read a news article or watch a TV program and question, decode and evaluate the information being presented to me.

Facebook users were furious when they discovered their personal information was being sold to the company Cambridge Analytica to customize content on their Facebook feeds. If media literacy courses were offered, more people would be able to analyze the content they are consuming and more people would be aware of what media corporations are capable of doing.

CSUN, like many other CSUs, now offers a news and media literacy course starting this semester.

As part of a curriculum change for CSUN’s journalism department, a new course called JOUR 365, News Literacy, will center around the development of news literacy skills to help evaluate bias, opinion and transparency in the media. The course will be taught by Dr. Eisenstock and will fulfill a journalism and upper-division elective requirement and be available to non-journalism majors as well.

Our brains are continuously absorbing information that appears in TV shows, films, music, books, social media and advertisements. Being media literate means being able to apply the skills needed to question the accuracy of the media before believing the information.

CSUN students from all majors should take the news literacy course and all non-CSUN students need to demand some type of media literacy course in their school’s curriculum. As a culture that is constantly interacting with media, we are never taught how to correctly interact with said media. Students can only benefit from the information in a media literacy course. Media isn’t going anywhere, and it’s about time we, as a society, demand to understand the thing that we use 12 hours of every day.

Editors Note: the Original story had the wrong byline and name. The correct name is Raychel Stewart