Media literacy

Media literacy can be crucial in making informed health decisions related to a pandemic

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As the delta variant of COVID-19 sweeps across the country, cases and hospitalizations are on the rise, especially in places with relatively low vaccination rates. And there is a real and growing concern that the disinformation flourishing in some of these places is having a direct effect on people’s healthcare decisions.

But one tool that could help eradicate this misinformation is media literacy. Yvonnes Chen, who studies media education and health at the University of Kansas, told Texas Standard that giving people the tools to better discern fact from fiction in the media they consume could help them learn from better decisions about their health.

“I think it’s important to understand the purpose of each media message and the motivations of each media producer. And it’s also important to recognize that every media message has its own values ​​and point of view, ”Chen said.

RELATED: Rapidly Rising COVID Cases in Texas Linked to Delta Variant and Low Vaccination Rates

Knowing your own level of media literacy is the first step in becoming a smarter consumer of health news and information. Chen says everyone should ask themselves if they feel confident in determining the facts from the lies. And they also need to be mindful of what they read, watch, listen to, and use online.

“When everyone reads a news article it’s important to think about, hmm, who writes it? What is the media organization behind this? What might be the motivations and, perhaps, the views of the potential media organization? What about the author: Does the author have enough background knowledge and information to be knowledgeable enough to tell me more about what I need to know about this piece? Chen said.

These are all critical questions to ask, especially during the pandemic. Chen says that while many factors, such as religious beliefs and education, can contribute to a person’s health care decisions, the media one consumes can also play an important role.

“We certainly see that the consumption of disinformation, especially staying in a siled media environment, has an impact on people’s reluctance to immunize as well as their general understanding of the mask’s mandate,” Chen said.

Anyone can improve their media literacy at any age, says Chen. But there are programs to teach media literacy to high school students in English classes. The approach is similar to literary criticism, she says, in which a student learns to consider an author’s background as well as where and when he wrote a particular piece to better understand its message.

Chen says developing media literacy, including a healthy dose of skepticism, is important for the overall health of people during the pandemic and beyond.

Media education can be applied to a number of contexts, including prevention of substance use, sugary drinks… obesity, nutrition education,” she said. “The point is, when we feel like we know enough, we actually don’t know very much. And I think media literacy embodies this attitude that everyone has the capacity to develop.


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