Dr. Karen Dill-Shackleford’s How Fantasy Becomes Reality says many important things about the power of mass media and how it affects us. Her primary message is that mass media is powerful, persuasive, and influential (Dill, 2009, pg 226). This is a message that I largely agree with, even if I disagree with some of the other points made in her book. However, one point I definitely agree with her on is the importance of media literacy.
Dr. Dill-Shackleford believes that the U.S. would be much better off if it were to start teaching media literacy in schools, and though I am generally against government overreach, I agree with her on this as well. The United States wouldn’t be the first country to do this either, Australia, Canada, and the countries in the EU all require students to study some form of media education in order to graduate (Petranova, 2017).
The Internet can be a dangerous place, especially for children. Thankfully, it seems that the measures taken by the UK may have made some difference. One study reports that over one-quarter of interviewed children were aware of the fact that they were in dangerous situations sometimes (Supsakova, 2016). Another study demonstrated the dangers face by young adults who are not able to recognize the scare-tactics used by pharmaceutical companies to boost market share and how the students may be at a disadvantage compared to students who are more media literate. (Austin, 2012).
Children need to be made aware of the dangers that may await them on the Internet, and the lack of any government regulation in this matter means that the US may lag far behind other countries, especially in STEM fields. Other dangers of media include false and misleading information that could result in significant harm, such as the dangerous “challenge videos” that crop up on occasion. If a child is not properly media literate then they may be put in danger through simple ignorance.
In a world of credible news companies being labeled “fake news” and mass shooters operating on false conspiracies, it is more important than ever to be able to think critically about the information you are presented with. I believe that with some significant effort in the area of media education we can ensure that the United States does not fall victim to false and misleading information. As was once said long, long ago: “The truth shall set you free.”
Austin, E. W., Pinkleton, B. E., Austin, B. W., & Van de Vord, R. (2012). The Relationships of Information Efficacy and Media Literacy Skills to Knowledge and Self-efficacy for Health-Related Decision Making. Journal Of American College Health, 60(8), 548-554. doi:10.1080/07448481.2012.726302
Dill, K. E. (2009). How fantasy becomes reality: Seeing through media influence. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
PETRANOVÁ, D., HOSSOVÁ, M., & VELICKÝ, P. (2017). CURRENT DEVELOPMENT TRENDS OF MEDIA LITERACY IN EUROPEAN UNION COUNTRIES. Communication Today, 8(1), 52-65.
ŠUPŠÁKOVÁ, B. (2016). MEDIA EDUCATION OF CHILDREN AND YOUTH AS A PATH TO MEDIA LITERACY. Communication Today, 7(1), 32-51.