What is media?

Media is the means of communication that reach or influence people and society, such as:

  • television
  • radio
  • newspapers
  • magazines
  • internet

What is media literacy?

While traditional literacy means focusing on understanding the word, media literacy focuses on accessing, analyzing, evaluating and creating meaning in a wide variety of forms. Those forms can include images, sounds, graphics and words.

The Association for Media Literacy offers the following definition:

  • Media Literacy is concerned with developing an informed and critical understanding of the nature of the mass media, the techniques used by them, and the impact of these techniques.
  • It is education that aims to increase students’ understanding and enjoyment of how the media work, how they produce meaning, how they are organized, and how they construct reality.
  • Media literacy also aims to provide students with the ability to create media products.

In Ontario classrooms, Media Literacy takes up about 25% of the expectations set out in the curriculum.

What is my child learning about media literacy at school?

In Ontario, Media Literacy is taught in every grade as part of the language program. The overall expectations are pretty much the same from grades 1 to 8.

  • Students should show that they understand the different forms of media; they need to know who would watch/listen to/read it and why; they understand that there are different points of view expressed; they understand that those who make the media have different motives.
  • Students need to explain how different techniques are used to get a message across. For instance, scary music plays when the villain comes out, or the bad guy wears black and the good guy wears white, or traffic signs are in bright colours so that people notice them.
  • Students should be able to create their own media, like tell the class a story about a vacation or write an advertisement.
  • Students need to reflect on how they interpreted the media, how it helped them, and how they can improve their interpretive skills.

What can parents do at home?

  • Let your children watch the news with you (make sure you are not letting young ones see images that scare them). Talk about it afterwards.
  • Stop passively watching television. Instead question what you watch and question your children about what they watch.
  • If you do not want your children to read or watch something tell them why. Start a dialogue about appropriate and inappropriate messages.
  • If you are watching cartoons, talk to your children about the violence in the cartoons. Is it appropriate or inappropriate? Is it okay to use violence to solve problems? Read this for more on media violence.
  • Body image can be a huge issue for young girls. Have them watch the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. It shows the work put into making fashion models look the way they do.
  • Point out to your kids that hours and hours were put in to make that model/actress look like that or to make that hamburger look so juicy. Real food and real people have flaws and that's okay.
  • Question the commercials your kids watch. Ask them who they think the ads are for. Are there people who wouldn't like the ad? Why? Does the ad work? Do they think the product does what the ad says it does?
  • When reading newspaper and magazine articles, explain media bias to your kids.
  • For more hints, visit The Media Awareness Network and Mediacs.


The bottom line is that kids are hugely influenced by what they see and hear around them. But through work at home and at school, they'll realize that things aren't always what they seem.