Become a media deconstruction expert

Do you ever stop to think about what messages you are getting from the things that you watch and hear from the media (television, movies, videos, video games, radio, Internet sites, magazines, etc.)? If not, you might be surprised. If you experience a lot of popular media these days, you might think that it's a pretty scary world where everyone carries a gun and all people are evil. While it's true that some people carry guns (including some good guys like police) and there may be a few people who are truly evil, most people don't carry guns and they're basically good. Here are some great questions to ask yourself when you are experiencing media used by the kids at the Boston YWCA Youth Voice Collaborative based on their research of some of the leading media awareness programs:

  • Who made it and what were the producer’s goals or motives?
  • What lifestyles, values, and points of view are represented in this message?
  • How might other people interpret this message differently from yourself?
  • What techniques were used to attract your attention, to affect your emotions?
  • What is omitted from this message? Why was it left out?

One evening, try asking these questions with others in your family before you watch a show on TV and then talk about them after. Do the same thing with advertisements from magazines around your house.

If you consume media, then try conducting your own content analysis on one or more of your favorite videos or taped TV programs - count the number of violent scenes, deaths, the times that weapons are used (and the types of weapons), times that characters smoke, drink alcohol, or use drugs. Pay attention to how conflicts are resolved. Once you collect some data, think about what this means you would see over the course of a week, a month, a year. How many deaths have you seen in real life compared to what you've seen on TV? What has been your experience with products that are advertised, do they do what you expected based on the commercial or the advertisement? What do you notice about the news and what types of stories make the news? Once you're done, you might find it interesting to compare your findings to the results of some of our studies. If you collect any data, then please let me know what you learned, and see if you can get your class involved.

Our media system uses voluntary ratings and it depends on everyone making good choices about the media that they consume. The messages matter, so pay attention to make sure that you don't believe everything you see and hear without questioning the information!

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