Media literacy is the ability to identify different types of media and understand the messages they're sending. Kids take in a huge amount of information from a wide array of sources, far beyond the traditional media (TV, radio, newspapers, and magazines) of most parents' youth. There are text messages, memes, viral videos, social media, video games, advertising, and more. But all media shares one thing: Someone created it. And it was created for a reason. Understanding that reason is the basis of media literacy.
Media literacy is the ability to analyze media messages, understand the intent of the messages, and judge how the information in the messages is used. These skills are especially important to young people, who are flooded with media messages at the same time they are building their own identities and values.
Media images often impact young people's decisions about which attitudes and actions are "normal." The need for group acceptance and peer approval is high during adolescence. Young people who understand how the media works are better able to make choices based on facts rather than on "hype."
Media literacy can help young people understand messages — actual or "between the lines" — heard in music lyrics, promoted on clothing and jewelry, shown in ads, and portrayed on TV or in movies. This helps youth learn to recognize and resist messages that promote using alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs.
Source: Adapted from SAMHSA's Family Guide website.