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Media literacy is a vague but emerging field that recognizes that young people spend more time watching television or engaged with some other form of media than any other activity apart from sleeping. Individuals therefore have the ability to understand and analyze, evaluate or create messages that are conveyed through different types of media. According to The Center For Media Literacy, media literacy includes the following concepts:
- Understand how mass media works
- The meanings behind the messages in mass media
- How media is organized
- Innovative ways to utilize media
History of Media Literacy
Media literacy largely developed within the education system during the 20th century. One of the primary ways in which media literacy became communicated was when high school English teachers began using film to reinforce critical thinking and communication skills. The ability to connect film to both literature and history allowed students to both develop deeper understanding of a topic, as well as become versed in an entire specialized language, that of filmmaking. The idea was raised that print was not the only viable medium by which expression could be communicated.
Media Literacy's Haphazard Development
Media literacy does not have a central organization with which to promote a single interpretation, nor does it have a specific theory. Rather, media literacy appears to be developing in a haphazard manner, as the highly fragmented nature of the education system in America allows for more individualized development in the use of media to convey meaning and educational content. One successful use of media literacy has been the campaign to reduce smoking in the United States through a variety of mass marketing, such as internet marketing, and image-driven campaigns and advertising.