Developing Media Literacy for Well-being, Relationships and Democracy | Facing History & Ourselves
Facing History & Ourselves
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Unit

Developing Media Literacy for Well-being, Relationships and Democracy

Teach students about media literacy, helping them develop as critical consumers and creators of information, in order to support their well-being, their relationships and our democracy.

Published:

This resource is intended for educators in the United Kingdom.

At a Glance

unit copy
Unit

Language

English — UK

Duration

Multiple weeks
  • Democracy & Civic Engagement
  • Propaganda

Overview

About This Unit

This unit is designed to help teachers have conversations with their students about media literacy in a critical, reflective and constructive way. Use these lessons to help your students reflect on the changing media and information landscape; understand how this landscape impacts individuals, communities and society; and consider how they can thoughtfully and responsibly engage with content they encounter online and in print. This learning can also help them become conscientious content creators. Supporting students to develop as critical consumers and creators of information is vital for their well-being, their relationships and our democracy.

The creation of this unit was supported by funding from the U.S. Embassy in London.

How can developing our media literacy support our well-being, our relationships and our democracy?

This unit supports a Multiple-week exploration of media literacy and includes:

  • 10 lessons
  • 9 Handouts and readings
  • Classroom-ready PowerPoints for each lesson

In the UK, people spend hours every day consuming some form of mass media: 18- to 24-year-olds, for example, spend over five hours a day online, browsing the Internet, playing games, streaming entertainment services and/or using social media platforms. 1 Additionally, they may also consume media by watching television, listening to music, encountering adverts on the street and reading printed media, like magazines, books and newspapers. 

Scientists Sabine Heim and Andreas Keil’s research revealed that the average person alive in 2017 ‘processe[d] as much as 74 gigabytes (GB) in information a day’. 2 This is equivalent to watching 16 films and is the amount of information that, 500 years ago, ‘a highly educated person consumed in a lifetime, through books and stories’. 3 It is also 40 GB more than the average person consumed in 2008. 4

These high levels of media consumption are significant: what people view, see and hear in the media has the capacity to shape what they think and their understanding of the world around them. It is therefore vital for young people to develop media literacy skills so that they can engage critically and responsibly with the information they encounter.

This is all the more important given the impact that technological progress is having on the information landscape. The evolution of technology has brought many benefits: it has made it cheaper to produce and disseminate content, and has democratised expression, making it easier for traditionally underrepresented people and viewpoints to get a platform. However, it has also created problems. Now, there is an overwhelming amount of information for people to sift through; misinformation, disinformation and mal-information content can be shared widely and incredibly quickly; multiple views of reality are emerging (the conspiracy theory that alleges the world is flat is an example of this) and there is greater mistrust in traditional institutions and media sources (trust in media is now at an all-time low). 5

Media literacy advocates Tessa Jolls and Michele Johnsen note, 

In the past ten to twenty years, the information landscape has fundamentally changed due to an exponential increase in access to information consumption and production. [...] On one hand, empowered citizens can now learn, participate, share, and express themselves as never before. On the other, abuses such as unintended spread of misinformation, disinformation campaigns by malicious actors, and misuse of personal information have become rampant, and citizens must navigate a complex new media landscape without traditionally trusted resources. 6

These developments all have serious implications for people’s rights and their ability to make the informed decisions necessary to participate in a democracy. 

To respond to this changing landscape, Jolls and Johnsen advocate for media literacy education. They argue that it ‘offers democratic societies a way to support independent thinking among their people and arms citizens to minimize their chances of being misinformed or manipulated, without sacrificing the ideal of freedom of expression, or risking censorship’. 7

The development of media literacy can help students feel empowered to assess information themselves, and trust in their capacity to discern what is true from what is not. This can enhance their decision-making skills and help them grow as effective problem-solvers, who can reflect on societal issues and how best to respond to them. 

Use this unit to help students develop their media literacy skills and to help them understand the role media literacy plays in supporting their well-being, developing healthy relationships and safeguarding democracy.

  • 1Online Nation, Ofcom, 1 June 2022.
  • 2S. Heimand A. Keil, ‘Too Much Information, Too Little Time: How the Brain Separates Important from Unimportant Things in Our Fast-Paced Media World’, Frontiers for Young Minds 5:23 (2017). doi: 10.3389/frym.2017.00023
  • 3Ibid.
  • 4R. Bohn and J. Short, ‘Measuring consumer information’, International Journal of Communication 6 (2012), 980–1000.
  • 5Tessa Jolls and Michele Johnsen, ‘Media Literacy: A Foundational Skill for Democracy in the 21st Century’, Hastings Law Journal 69:5 (2018), p. 1383. Available at: https://repository.uchastings.edu/hastings_law_journal/vol69/iss5/4 (accessed 16 January 2024).
  • 6Ibid., p. 1379.
  • 7Ibid., p. 1403

Preparing to Teach

A Note to Teachers

Before teaching this unit, please review the following information to help guide your preparation process.

We recommend that, if possible, you teach all of the lessons in the designated order. However, we understand that teachers often have time constraints. For the double lessons in the unit, we have recommended which lesson to prioritise teaching. Regardless of how many lessons you are able to teach, please read the unit in its entirety and review all of the content, so that you understand the context and are making informed decisions on which lessons to use.

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