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When does Media Literacy Begin?

Our Media Literacy Colloquium has adopted the NAMLE definition of media literacy. But one question remains:   When does media literacy begin?   Is it elementary school, pre-school, home?   Or, does media literacy begin at birth?

A 2005 study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the University of Texas Children’s Digital Media Center makes clear that media is a constant presence in the lives of young children.  (  The study concludes that very little is understood about the impact of exposure to media on young children.    

What is known is that children are living in a media saturated world.  A 2003 Kaiser Family Foundation report on electronic media use by very young children, nearly all American children live in a home with a television.  More than half of those live in a home with three or more televisions. And one third has a television in their bedroom.

Television use is not the only media tool used by these young children. The same study, demonstrated that nearly 48 percent of children, ages 6 and younger, have used a computer and more than one in four have placed video games. (

Media immersion means children are exposed to messages about behavior, learning, and consumerism.  We’ve all seen young children carrying toys and wearing clothes featuring their favorite television or film character. (

Are they alone when they receive these messages or they being guided through media use by the adults?  What lessons are they learning about discernment? 

Through an examination of the many types of  media used by children, messages directed at children and the attitudes toward media by the adults in their lives, we may come to understand the needs and discover ways in which adults can begin to help children think critically about the media.


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