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Talking With Teens About Media Literacy

Give your teen credit. Approach the discussion believing that your teen has given some thought to the image on their own. Adolescents may give the impression that image is everything, but they do look for content. Teenagers believe that they are independent thinkers who can reach their own conclusions when presented with the facts.

Be open to learning something yourself. Remember that youth need to be involved in the discovery of information, not just presented with information.

Remain calm and open minded. We often are triggered to action by things that offend our own sensibilities of what is right, beautiful, and logical. If we act on instinct, the outcome is likely to be the opposite of what we intend.

Don’t expect immediate results. If you have not been talking with your teen on a regular basis, he or she may be suspicious of this new media literacy information, measuring it against an “authenticity yardstick.” Keep lines of communication open, even if the first session does not go so well. Allow some space for your teen to sort out ideas and images for his or her self.

Seize the moment. Incidental opportunities (such as your teen labeling a program “dumb” after viewing) that come up daily may be used to start enlightening discussions.

Talk back to your TV. When appropriate, express opinions about sexism, racism, and unnecessary violence. Challenge commercials and the way they try to sell not only products, but attitudes and lifestyles. And, don’t forget to point out positive portrayals as well.

Insist that media literacy be taught in the schools. Providing media literacy in the home and the school reinforces what your teens are learning and gives them more opportunities to practice and perfect their skills.