School program helps kids think critically about media and persuasion
“If media creates reality, what is your truth?”
That’s the question that Prevention Educator Laura Ricci of Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism & Substance Abuse (GCASA) wants to get young people thinking about.
Ricci teaches Media Literacy, an ongoing prevention program, to Genesee County students along with other GCASA staff. GCASA started implementing these presentations in the schools two years ago, and they are still going strong.
Holy Family School in Le Roy included the program in its Red Ribbon Week activities last week. Ricci came to teach two Media Literacy sessions – one to fourth- through sixth-graders, one for seventh- and eighth-graders.
Students were excited about the presentation and contributed by sharing stories about their own experiences.
“Laura did an excellent job presenting the information and getting students involved,” said Principal Kevin Robertson. “The presentation educated our students on the many types of media messages that so greatly affect them on a daily basis.”
Today’s youth are exposed to greater volumes of media input than any other generation, from television to radio, iPods, billboards, store advertisements, video games, magazines and the internet, and more.
The goal of the Media Literacy Program is to inform them about how they are being influenced by the media without realizing it, and to get them thinking independently and critically about the messages being conveyed by commercials, television shows, advertisements, etc.
Each presentation is age-appropriate, but all of them raise the same points and questions about media influence, with particular focus on how companies have used it to market alcohol and tobacco products.
The questions Ricci wants students to think about when watching a commercial or reading an advertisement are:
• Who created the message, and why?
• Who is the target audience? What suggests this?
• What is the text of the message (the actual words and pictures portrayed)?
• What tools of persuasion are used?
• What healthy/unhealthy messages are being communicated
• What part of the story is not being told?
She showed the students commercials and print advertisements that exemplified persuasive techniques such as beauty, humor, and fame/status.
Once she moved onto the cigarette ads, she talked about the target audience.
“People who smoke almost never switch brands,” Ricci said. “So when tobacco manufacturers (of any brand) advertise their products, they’re trying to get non-smokers to start smoking.”
“Media Literacy is a very important part of our activities during Red Ribbon Week,” Robertson said. “This is the first year we’ve done it, but it will continue each year from now on.”
For more information or to request a Media Literacy session at your school, call Shannon Ford at 815-1876.
Disclosure: Dan Crofts is employed by GCASA.