In addition to print-based literacy, modern children should have the necessary skills to be media literate. The educational system is now transforming to embrace media literacy as an important component. Various organizations are also involved in helping people to think critically and use the media properly. Media Literacy Now is one such institution as this not-for-profit organization that concentrates on promoting media literacy education policy (“Who we are,” 2020). The website contains plenty of materials for educators, policymakers, and parents, but it can also be more engaging for students. This paper includes a brief description of a workshop that can be helpful in terms of media literacy education.
The workshop will include a series of video clips, leaflets, pictures that can be the background for discussions held in classrooms as well as other settings (community gatherings, festivals, educational workshops, and similar occasions). The major idea of the workshop is to expose children to the transformations regarding the concept of childhood in human society and the changing roles of the youth. The following topics will be discussed: children before the nineteenth century, children in the twentieth century, future roles, the influence of the media, and media literacy skills.
The topic regarding the concept of childhood should be central to this workshop. Cook (2004) notes that the notion of childhood was unknown to people before the nineteenth century due to the specifics of society. Children were actively involved in the life of their families, completing diverse tasks depending on their developmental stage. Interestingly, work and leisure time was similarly spent by all generations, who worked in fields, trades, and households and had rest listening to fairytales, playing games, and dancing (Cook, 2004). The participants of the workshop should be shown religious depictions of Medieval times. At that period, Jesus was the central child character or rather the only one depicted in diverse settings but always featured as a small adult (Cook, 2004). This aspect should be discussed in detail in terms of the role children performed in society as a part of the labor force and the way they were treated and depicted. Over time, these views changed, and the concept of childhood as modern people know it emerged.
It is also necessary to discuss the role technology played in the transformations mentioned above. The Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution can be seen as an important impetus for this development as people who learned more about the human body, ways to treat diseases, ways to complete numerous tasks (Kline, 1993; Cook, 2004). Children started being excluded from the labor force in different ways, depending on their families’ socioeconomic status. Jean-Jacques Rousseau is regarded as one of the most influential thinkers who contributed to the perception of children as innocent creatures that become the basis of later thoughts on childhood. It was agreed that children had special needs, and the commercialization of childhood began in the nineteenth century (Cook, 2004). The massive production of toys and children’s products was welcomed by people. The discussion of this topic should include talks about child labor, education, and the development of the sentiments about children as innocent and vulnerable creatures rather than equal members of society.
The life of children in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries will also be discussed with the focus on education and the role media played in the development of this population. Schools, rather than families, became the major platform of socialization (Kline, 1993; Cook, 2004). The development of technology had a substantial impact on societies and children, in particular. Radio and then television affected children in many ways, being another socialization platform for them. Through educational programs, children acquired certain values and skills. The less explicit, but perhaps more influential, the impact was made by movies, animation films, commercials, and later video games.
On the one hand, these media are creating a world that is shaping the way children see reality and develop their identities. On the other hand, these products also represent the peculiarities of modern society. For example, movies promote some values, but they also inflict diverse stereotypes. Students may be encouraged to discuss the instances of such influences. Tolentino (2017) stresses that such a show as Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends can be seen as an instrument of major influence if not propaganda. The author describes different characters and episodes associated with stereotypes or attempts to inflict particular behavioral patterns. During the workshop, students should discuss the show (and similar ones) in terms of their attitudes and perceptions in their childhood and at present.
As far as the representation of contemporary society, media unveil major shifts in the way children’s roles have changed and can change. Kline (1993) notes that The Simpsons describe an ordinary American family where children are no longer passive receivers of the wisdom of adults. Children are depicted as intelligent actors who are capable of being successful in this world (Kline, 1993). These changes are apparent in the society where school-age speakers address nations from the UN tribune or other platforms. Students should be encouraged to discuss their fitness of living in society and the roles they can perform. They should think of the place they will occupy in terms of the labor force, family, business, technology, and other spheres. Drotner (1990) describes the generational struggle that started in the 1990s. Adults try to control the development of children who are regarded as vulnerable and in need of protection. However, children are becoming more powerful, and the media facilitate this process.
The Internet has become the terrain for communication and sharing ideas, which is the basis of development. Mark Zuckerberg used technology and young people’s desire to be connected and became one of the wealthiest business people when he was still very young. Children have diverse platforms to voice their needs, and the media have become central to this process. Nevertheless, as with any other instrument, the media should be utilized properly and effectively. Drotner (1990) describes many ways in which films or other products can have adverse or even detrimental effects for children, as well as other age groups. The students will discuss ways to improve their media literacy and some of the major principles of using the media safely.
In conclusion, the suggested workshop will encourage students to pay more attention to the development of media literacy skills. They will understand that they should use these technological advances responsibly. They will also acknowledge the way the concept of a childhood transformed throughout centuries. The workshop may help young people to acknowledge the role they can play in their community and overall society.
Cook, D. T. (2004). The commodification of childhood: The children’s clothing industry and the rise of the child consumer. Duke University Press.
Drotner, K. (1999). Dangerous media? Panic discourses and dilemmas of modernity. Paedagogica Historica, 35(3), 593-619. Web.
Kline, S. (2004). Out of the garden: Toys, TV, and children’s culture in the age of marketing. Verso.
Tolentino, J. (2017). The repressive, authoritarian soul of ‘Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends.’ New Yorker. Web.
Who we are. (2020). Media Literacy Now. Web.