Media literacy is the ability to critically analyse what you read, see, or hear in the mass media and, most notably, the ability to determine the accuracy or credibility of these stories in the mass media. Given the abundance of information sources accessible today, it is essential to identify credible sources, hone your critical thinking abilities, and learn how to separate reality from fiction to avoid being manipulated.

Why is media literacy critical?

A healthy democracy requires the ability to separate reality from fiction, recognise prejudice, and identify disinformation. It teaches people how to assess media, enabling them to unpack and comprehend the information that eventually shapes attitudes and beliefs.

Here are four reasons why media literacy is an essential ability in today’s culture. Employing media literacy can:

But how do you become media literate? Let’s break it down with the five Ws and an H.

Who created it, and for whom is it intended?

Always start by asking who is responsible for the message created. By finding out what is behind the news, you can further interrogate the intentions of the person who made the message and its intent. 

Why is it created?

This question will direct you to the purpose of the message. Was it to inform, to change behaviour or cause confusion?

What are the techniques used, and what details are left out?

The techniques will enable you to distinguish the message’s credibility and whether evidence is included, for example, graphs, pictures, or video. You can determine if different views balance the news or if there is only one view of the message.

When was the message produced?

This is essential because this will establish whether the story has relevance or whether it is a recreation of a previous message with a specific purpose.

How does the message make you feel?

What emotions are being evoked by the message? How will other readers feel about the message? Will it create debate, or worse, will it result in violence?

In conclusion, including media literacy in school curricula will help to prevent the spread of misinformation and promote media literacy in the long run. Implementing strict policies can also contribute to becoming a disinformation-free world. However, this may also have an impact on how much free expression is allowed. So, always double-check before sharing and research reputable news sources before clicking the share button.