The Importance of Media Literacy

“In the 21st Century, the century our children will live in — the century they will, in fact, shape — media literacy will not be a luxury; it will be a necessity.”
Linda Ellerbee, journalist, television producer

But why is being media literate so important in this day in age? Just as the printing press brought about new advances and new consequences, so do new technological features of the media. In the 1400’s, people adjusted by becoming literate, today, we must adapt by being media literate.

I have already covered a few areas in which being able to critically think and analyze the media is important and effective in the development of values, morals, and expectations (Cigarettes, alcohol, sex, etc.). However, the effects of media literacy are widespread, and I am unable to cover them all in depth in such a short period of time. So in this final post, I would like to highlight a few other areas media literacy can make a difference.

  • Media literacy can help high-risk youth develop more responsible decision making skills (Key Facts: Media Literacy)
  • Media literacy can help enhance a young woman’s sense of self-development and empowerment involving their body image (Key Facts: Media Literacy)

Past posts have shown that media literacy training influences decisions regarding risky-behavior, such as tobacco use, alcohol consumption, and sexual behaviors.  Furthermore, large media monopolies can reduce our abilities to participate in decision making (Media Literacy Toolbox). When huge media companies control the majority of business, they also control the majority of information, acting as as gatekeeper. With the ability to analyze, critique and effectively use the media to find more information, we can enhance our decision making skills with more information.

According to Meng and Bissell (2009), it has been shown that media messages can influence young women to take part in dangerous dieting techniques because of body image inferiority. However, the effects of a positive media literacy campaign have never been tested. In their 2009 study, the researchers tested four different media literacy campaigns, and found them all effective in various degrees, in raising  self-image.

The effects of media literacy have proven positive in studies across various disciplines concerning various subjects. It is incredibly important that we keep ourselves, our children, and our society media literate in order to counteract the possible negative influences media may have on us.


Meng, J., & Bissell, K. (2009). YouTube and Media Literacy: Testing the Effectiveness of YouTube Media Literacy Campaigns About Body Image Targeted Toward Adolescent Girls and College Women. Conference Papers — International Communication Association, 1-32. Retrieved from Communication & Mass Media Complete database.

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