Media literacy encompasses the practices that allow people to access, critically evaluate, and create media. Media literacy is not restricted to one medium.
There are four important skills that help the viewer or reader understand the meaning: accessing media, analyzing content, being able to evaluate messages, and being able to create media for self-expression and communication. Media literacy typically lends itself to a deeper meaning and analysis of the work, not necessarily just a direct understanding of fact represented in the work. Media literacy also concerns the ability to identify when there is a problem that impacts democracy, thus allowing the public to generate its own opinion, which can influence society.
Media literacy education for children and youth is intended to promote awareness of media influence and create an active stance towards both consuming and creating media. By teaching children to have a critical eye toward media, they learn how to interpret information and communicate more efficiently, which could impact their everyday lives. Media literacy education is part of the curriculum in the United States and some European Union countries, and an interdisciplinary global community of media literacy scholars and educators engages in knowledge sharing through scholarly and professional journals and national membership associations. In some countries and locations, however, teachers lack appropriate qualifications and the application of best practices is deficient.
The terms 'media literacy' and 'media education' are used synonymously in most English-speaking nations. Many scholars and educators consider media literacy to be an expanded conceptualization of literacy. In 1993, a gathering of the media literacy community in the United States developed a definition of media literacy as the ability to access, analyze, evaluate and create messages in a wide variety of forms.
Media literacy has a long history and over the years a number of different terms have been used to capture the skills, competencies, knowledge and habits of mind that are required for full participation in media-saturated societies. In England, the term "media education" is used to define the process of teaching and learning about media. It is about developing people's critical and creative abilities when it comes to mass media, popular culture and digital media. Media education is the process and media literacy is the outcome, but neither term should be confused with educational technology or with educational media. When people understand media and technology, they are able to access, analyze, evaluate, and create messages in a wide variety of media, genres, and forms.
Education for media literacy often uses an inquiry-based pedagogic model that encourages people to ask questions about what they watch, hear, and read. Media literacy education provides tools to help people critically analyze messages, offers opportunities for learners to broaden their experience of media, and helps them develop creative skills in making their own media messages. Critical analysis can include identifying author, purpose and point of view, examining construction techniques and genres, examining patterns of media representation, and detecting propaganda, censorship, and bias in news and public affairs programming (and the reasons for these). Media literacy education may explore how structural features—such as media ownership, or its funding model—affect the information presented.
In North America and Europe, media literacy includes both empowerment and protectionist perspectives. Media literate people should be able to skillfully create and produce media messages, both to show understanding of the specific qualities of each medium, as well as to create independent media and participate as active citizens. Media literacy can be seen as contributing to an expanded conceptualization of literacy, treating mass media, popular culture and digital media as new types of 'texts' that require analysis and evaluation. By transforming the process of media consumption into an active and critical process, people gain greater awareness of the potential for misrepresentation and manipulation (especially through commercials and public relations techniques), and understand the role of mass media and participatory media in constructing views of reality.
Media literacy education is sometimes conceptualized as a way to address the negative dimensions of mass media, popular culture and digital media, including media violence, gender and racial stereotypes, the sexualization of children, and concerns about loss of privacy, cyberbullying and Internet predators. By building knowledge and competencies in using media and technology, media literacy education may provide a type of protection to children and young people by helping them make good choices in their media consumption habits, and patterns of usage.
A variety of scholars have proposed theoretical frameworks for media literacy. Renee Hobbs identifies three frames for introducing media literacy to learners: authors and audiences (AA), messages and meanings (MM), and representation and reality (RR). In synthesizing the literature from media literacy, information literacy, visual literacy and new literacies, she identifies these core ideas that form the theoretical context for media literacy. 
David Buckingham has come up with four key concepts that "provide a theoretical framework which can be applied to the whole range of contemporary media and to 'older' media as well: Production, Language, Representation, and Audience." These concepts are defined as follows:
Media texts are consciously made. Some are made by individuals working alone, just for themselves or their family and friends, but most are produced and distributed by groups of people often for commercial profit. Economic interests and the generation of profit are often at stake in media production.
The notion of 'representation' is one of the first established principles of media education. Media offers viewers a facilitated outlook of the world and a re-representation of reality. Media production involves selecting and combining incidents, making events into stories, and creating characters. Media representations allow viewers to see the world in some particular ways and not others. Audiences also compare media with their own experiences and make judgements about how realistic they are. Media representations can be seen as real in some ways but not in others: viewers may understand that what they are seeing is only imaginary and yet they still know it can explain reality.
Studying audiences means looking at how demographic audiences are targeted and measured, and how media are circulated and distributed throughout. It looks at different ways in which individuals use, interpret, and respond to media. The media increasingly have had to compete for people's attention and interest because research has shown that audiences are now much more sophisticated and diverse than has been suggested in the past decades. Debating views about audiences and attempting to understand and reflect on our own and others' use of media is therefore a crucial element of media education.
To elaborate on the concepts presented by David Buckingham, Henry Jenkins discusses the emergence of a participatory culture, in which our students are actively engaged. With the emergence of this participatory culture, schools must focus on what Jenkins calls the "new media literacies", that is a set of cultural competencies and social skills that young people need in the new media landscape. In the new media literacies we see a shift in focus from individual expression to community involvement, involving the development of social skills through collaboration and networking.
Jeff Share (2002) has categorized the different approaches to media education to fit into 4 different areas. These are the protectionist approach, media arts education, media literacy movement, and critical media literacy (of which he is an advocate). The protectionist approach views audiences of mass media as dupes of the media, vulnerable to cultural, ideological or moral influences, and needing protection by education. The media arts education approach focuses on creative production of different media forms by learners. The media literacy movement is an attempt to bring traditional aspects of literacy from the educational sphere and apply it to media.
Empowerment and protection are complementary strategies for media literacy education and are fundamentally linked together. Beginning in the 1930s, media literacy educators recognized the need to increase appreciation for quality media content. Edgar Dale's film appreciation movement embodies the concept of empowerment, helping a generation of students learn how to critically analyze film in the context of English education. By the 1970s, awareness of the impact of media influence on children's behavior increased the focus on building students' awareness of the impact of media violence, including concepts like desensitization, to help students recognize and resist the messages that make violence look heroic, justified and appealing. The Center for Media Literacy's MediaLit Kit (TM) embodies the values of the "empowerment through education" approach to media literacy. Common Sense Media's media literacy curriculum, which emphasizes internet safety, information literacy, cyberbullying and digital drama, creative credit and copyright, self-image and identity, privacy and security, digital footprint and reputation balances the empowerment and protection approaches.
An arts-based approach to media education falls into related but distinct traditions. A longstanding emphasis is associated with traditions of film education, which typically place a central focus on film as an art-form, on its aesthetic and cultural value, and on the creative processes of young people's film-making. A study commissioned by the European Commission, led by the British Film Institute, shows how these values are generally supported across European countries. In spite of such support by educators, however, the study shows that most European countries allocate few resources or curriculum emphasis to film education. More generally, a media arts approach has been developed as a cross-curricular model, most conspicuously in a group of UK schools adopting the UK government's 1997 option to specialize in media arts, an approach documented by Andrew Burn and James Durran. This account exemplifies how creative production work in media art forms such as comicstrip, animation, television, film and videogames promotes the cultural, critical and creative aspects of media literacy. It also models the use of the media arts beyond the literacy curriculum, in subjects such as Geography and Science. Meanwhile, a third strand of media arts work foregrounds the digital aspect of contemporary media arts, associating creative media production with programming and computer science.
Critical media literacy is defined originally by Douglas Kellner and Share in "Critical Media Literacy is Not an Option", as "an educational response that expands the notion of literacy to include different forms of mass communication, popular culture, and new technologies. It deepens the potential of literacy education to critically analyze relationships between media and audiences, information, and power. Along with this mainstream analysis, alternative media production empowers students to create their own messages that can challenge media texts and narratives." Critical media literacy aims to analyze and understand the power structures that lay within the media and understand the underpinnings of the politics that go into representation of gender, race, class and sexuality in the media. This approach is different than "media literacy" because it critically works to understand that there are dominant power structures that audiences work to make meaning between the dominant, oppositional and negotiated readings of media.
Within society there are many different ideologies operating in media culture at any given time. Stuart Hall argues that ideologies exist in every aspect of life and are not separate and isolated. Ideologies are understood by the individual but created collectively. Critical media literacy examines ideologies that govern social institutions, government, and lived lives. The benefit of a critical media literacy approach is that audiences engage with and analyze dominant readings and codes within media and contribute to a better understanding of the world's "social realities". Instead of taking a mediated image at face value, the reader can understand the history and the characteristics of the image and make meaning in various ways.
People often use the skills of critical media literacy without even noticing while watching television, using social media, reading books, listening to music, etc.. Critical media literacy allows people to interpret the messages conveyed onscreen and apply them to their lives. By using this strategy, critical media literacy contribute to social change and activism. As stated by Douglas Kellner in Cultural Studies, Multiculturalism, and Media Culture, "The gaining of critical media literacy is an important resource for individuals and citizens in learning how to cope with a seductive cultural environment. Learning how to read, criticize, and resist sociocultural manipulation can help one empower oneself in relation to dominant forms of media and culture." There are multiple different ways that individuals can analyze, interpret, and evaluate media texts, specifically critical visual analysis and audience research. Critical visual analysis is different then visual analysis because of its interdisciplinary way of critical analyzing the frame of reference of a visual artifact and the power structures that are embedded in it. This is a great way to utilize critical media literacy in the classroom. As for an example of audience research, Kellner says "Fandoms of all sorts, from Star Trek fans ("Trekkies"/"Trekkers") to devotees of various soap operas, reality shows, or current highly popular TV series, also form communities that enable them to relate to others who share their interests and hobbies." Audience reception is important within critical media literacy because it offers the understanding that the audience will take in various forms of media and make meaning of them. A viewer is different than the audience because a viewer is just an individual who makes meaning, where the audience is a collective whole. The differences comes into play when one does research using the skills of critical media literacy. In order to understand a piece of media it is absolutely essential to make meaning of the audience and ask questions of who is this targeted at, focused on, and who is viewing it.
Proponents of media literacy education argue that the inclusion of media literacy into school curriculum promotes civic engagement, increases awareness of the power structures inherent in popular media and aids students in gaining the necessary critical and inquiry skills needed in today's society. Educators have argued for decades that teaching media literacy in the classroom is crucial in shaping critical thinkers, well-informed citizens and conscientious consumers. There is a growing body of research focusing on the impacts of media literacy on students. In an important meta-analysis of more than 50 studies published in the Journal of Communication, media literacy interventions were found to have positive effects on knowledge, criticism, perceived realism, influence, behavioral beliefs, attitudes, self-efficacy, and behavior.
The critical thinking skills that are often the basis of media literacy education can be utilized to decrease substance abuse in adolescents. A correlative study examined the relationship between skills commonly taught in media literacy programs, specifically the ability to critically deconstruct media messages, and adolescent's intent to use substances. The study found that students who were better able to critically examine and decode media messages reported that they were less likely to use drugs and alcohol in the future. Given that youth exposure to media that features substance use can predict the likelihood of alcohol and drug use, the findings suggest that media literacy programs may be a valuable tool for preventing harmful adolescent health behavior.
Furthermore, media literacy education has been shown to be a valuable tool in combatting childhood obesity and promoting healthy consumer habits. 140 fifth grade Taiwanese students participated in a study that examined the effects of a food advertising literacy program on food purchasing habits. Lessons included in the media literacy program introduced marketing strategies surrounding food advertisements, learning how to evaluate the nutritional value of advertised foods and encouraging students to use marketing tactics to promote healthy food among their peers. The results of the study found that compared to students who did not receive the program, students who had completed the food literacy program showed significantly greater improvements in nutritional food knowledge, food purchasing behavior and food advertising literacy. However, after a 1-month follow up students showed a decrease in the above-mentioned categories.
Media literacy programs can be a violence-prevention strategy. Results from a major longitudinal study conducted by UCLA with more than 2,000 Southern California middle school students found that introducing a curriculum aimed at deconstructing violence in the media resulted in increased student knowledge acquisition regarding media literacy and effects of violent media on individuals and society, changed attitudes toward media violence, as well as playground behaviors and media usage. The study used a self-report survey to compare participant's knowledge and attitudes surrounding violence pre-intervention and post-intervention. The study not only evaluated the curriculum, Beyond Blame: Challenging Violence in the Media, but also the Center for Media Literacy's frameworks for addressing media-related themes and topics.
A recent study examines the effects of a media literacy program geared at exploring gender stereotypes expressed in the media on middle school students. The research measured the extent to which participants learned to be critical consumers of media, especially in regards to stereotypical portrayals of men and women. Results were gathered through student surveys administered pre-intervention and post-intervention and concluded that participants who received the intervention were more likely to believe that the media influences the way people think about men and women and that the media reinforces gender stereotypes in regards to occupation.
Media literacy can be an effective tool for addressing issues surrounding women's body image. In a study conducted among female college students, participants were shown a 25-minute video that exposes how the advertising industry influences female body image, particularly the messages that certain media texts are sending to viewers about how an ideal woman should look. The study found that participants who watched the video reported greater satisfaction with their body, meaning the difference between their perceived body type and their ideal body type was much smaller compared to those who did not watch the video.
The above studies used self-report post-treatment surveys in order to gather their data. The limitations of this measure is that data collected about student behavior and experience is self-reported and can easily be distorted. Participants can exaggerate their responses, claiming that the media literacy lessons were more impactful than they actually were. For example, in a survey that is administered directly after the intervention and asks participants to report how likely they are to use drugs and alcohol in the future, a student may respond that they are less likely to use substances in order to please the researcher and to meet the expectations of what they believe were the goals of the intervention. A useful consideration for further research would be to use alternative measures such as administering follow up surveys several months later and asking students how many times they used drugs and alcohol in the past several months. This may work to lessen the likelihood of students predicting their own behavior inaccurately by focusing on what they have concretely done in the past, such as how many times they have used drugs and alcohol in the past three moths. Furthermore, additional follow-up studies could be conducted in order to gain information of the longitudinal effects of media literacy programs.
There is a wealth of research regarding youth exposure to media in all its forms. There are numerous articles seeking to explore the consequences of such exposure on adolescent behavior, but there are surprisingly few studies that explore the efficacy of certain tools that can be used to combat the harmful consequences of media exposure. Media literacy education is purported to lessen the negative impacts of media exposure, but precious few studies have been conducted to prove the statement. Perhaps further evidence demonstrating the benefits of media literacy as an intervention would encourage more educators to embrace the practice and incorporate programs into the classroom.
In 2001, a media education survey by UNESCO investigated which countries were incorporating media studies into different schools' curricula, as well as to help develop new initiatives in the field of media education. A questionnaire was sent to a total of 72 experts on media education in 52 different countries around the world. The people who received this questionnaire were people involved in academics (such as teachers), policy makers, and educational advisers. The questionnaire addressed three key areas:
The results from the answers of the survey were double-sided. It was noted that media education had been making a very uneven progress because while in one country there was an abundant amount of work towards media education, another country may have hardly even heard of the concept. One of the main reasons why media education has not taken full swing in some countries is because of the lack of policy makers addressing the issue. In some developing countries, educators say that media education was only just beginning to register as a concern because they were just starting to develop basic print literacy.
In the countries where media education existed at all, it would be offered as an elective class or an optional area of the school system rather than being on its own. Many countries argued that media education should not be a separate part of the curriculum but rather should be added to a subject already established. The countries which deemed media education as a part of the curriculum included the United States, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, and Australia. Many countries lacked even just basic research on media education as a topic, including Russia and Sweden. Some said that popular culture is not worthy enough of study. But all of the correspondents realized the importance of media education as well as the importance of formal recognition from their government and policy makers that media education should be taught in schools.
Media literacy education is actively focused on the instructional methods and pedagogy of media literacy, integrating theoretical and critical frameworks rising from constructivist learning theory, media studies and cultural studies scholarship. This work has arisen from a legacy of media and technology use in education throughout the 20th century and the emergence of cross-disciplinary work at the intersections of scholarly work in media studies and education. Voices of Media Literacy, a project of the Center for Media Literacy representing first-person interviews with media literacy pioneers active prior to 1990 in English-speaking countries, provides historical context for the rise of the media literacy field and is available at http://www.medialit.org/voices-media-literacy-international-pioneers-speak Media education is developing in Great Britain, Australia, South Africa, Canada, the United States, with a growing interest in the Netherlands, Italy, Greece, Austria, Switzerland, India, Russia and among many other nations.
Education for what is now termed media literacy has been developing in the UK since at least the 1930s. In the 1960s, there was a paradigm shift in the field of media literacy to emphasize working within popular culture rather than trying to convince people that popular culture was primarily destructive. This was known as the popular arts paradigm. In the 1970s, there came a recognition that the ideological power of the media was tied to the naturalization of the image.Forged messages were being passed off as natural ones. The focus of media literacy also shifted to the consumption of images and representations, also known as the representational paradigm. Development has gathered pace since the 1970s when the first formal courses in Film Studies and, later, Media Studies, were established as options for young people in the 14-19 age range: over 100,000 students (about 5% of this age range) now take these courses annually. Scotland has always had a separate education system from the rest of the UK and began to develop policies for media education in the 1980s. In England, the creation of the National Curriculum in 1990 included some limited requirements for teaching about the media as part of English. In Scotland teachers are represented by the professional association AMES (Association of Media Educators, Scotland); while in England the MEA (Media Education Association) fulfils this purpose.
The UK is widely regarded as a leader in the development of education for media literacy. Key agencies that have been involved in this development include the British Film Institute, the English and Media Centre Film Education the Centre for the Study of Children, Youth and Media at the Institute of Education, London, and the DARE centre (Digital Arts Research Education), a collaboration between University College London and the British Film Institute.
In Australia, media education was influenced by developments in Britain related to the inoculation, popular arts and demystification approaches. Key theorists who influenced Australian media education were Graeme Turner and John Hartley who helped develop Australian media and cultural studies. During the 1980s and 1990s, Western Australians Robyn Quin and Barrie MacMahon wrote seminal text books such as Real Images, translating many complex media theories into classroom appropriate learning frameworks. In most Australian states, media is one of five strands of the Arts Key Learning Area and includes "essential learnings" or "outcomes" listed for various stages of development. At the senior level (years 11 and 12), several states offer Media Studies as an elective. For example, many Queensland schools offer Film, Television and New Media, while Victorian schools offer VCE Media. Media education is supported by the teacher professional association Australian Teachers of Media. With the introduction of a new Australian National Curriculum, schools are beginning to implement media education as part of the arts curriculum, using media literacy as a means to educate students how to deconstruct, construct and identify themes in media.
In South Africa, the increasing demand for Media Education has evolved from the dismantling of apartheid and the 1994 democratic elections. The first national Media Education conference in South Africa was actually held in 1990 and the new national curriculum has been in the writing stages since 1997. Since this curriculum strives to reflect the values and principles of a democratic society there seems to be an opportunity for critical literacy and Media Education in Languages and Culture courses.
Professor Ralph A. Akinfeleye, Ph.D, points out that there have been many strides taken to use media to educate and expose South Africans to sexuality. This new openness has led to more sex scenes in movies, a boost in sales for the pornography industry, and an increase in sex shops. Although many newspapers are attempting to shed light on important issues related to sexuality, such as women's sexual rights, many people in South Africa are still hesitant to the media openness. One of the main issues that critics point out with the openness to sexuality in the media is the presentation of scholarly articles related to sexuality in print media next to pictures of women dressed scandalously trying to sell something, and how this sends mixed signals about sexuality to viewers. In addition, South Africa is faced with trying to balance its newfound popularity of sex with providing a safe environment that does not spread HIV/AIDS and sexual violence, two issues that South Africa has been plagued with in the past. Although there are issues that South Africa is facing in the adjustment to this new openness of sexuality in the media, the steps being taken to educate the public about issues with sexuality in South Africa is a huge move towards Media Education.
In areas of Europe, media education has seen many different forms. Media education was introduced into the Finnish elementary curriculum in 1970 and into high schools in 1977. But the media education we know today did not evolve in Finland until the 1990s. Media education has been compulsory in Sweden since 1980 and in Denmark since 1970. In both these countries, media education evolved in the 1980s and 1990s as media education gradually moved away from moralizing attitudes towards an approach that is more searching and pupil-centered. In 1994, the Danish education bill gave recognition to media education but it is still not an integrated part of the school. The focus in Denmark seems to be on information technology.
France has taught film from the inception of the medium, but it has only been recently that conferences and media courses for teachers have been organized with the inclusion of media production. Germany saw theoretical publications on media literacy in the 1970s and 1980s, with a growing interest for media education inside and outside the educational system in the 80s and 90s. In the Netherlands media literacy was placed in the agenda by the Dutch government in 2006 as an important subject for the Dutch society. In April, 2008, an official center has been created (mediawijsheid expertisecentrum = medialiteracy expertisecenter) by the Dutch government. This center is more a network organization existing out of different partners who have their own expertise with the subject of media education. The idea is that media education will become a part of the official curriculum.
The history of media education in Russia goes back to the 1920s. The first attempts to instruct in media education (on the press and film materials, with the vigorous emphasis on the communist ideology) appeared in the 1920s but were stopped by Joseph Stalin’s repressions. The end of the 1950s - the beginning of the 1960s was the time of the revival of media education in secondary schools, universities, after-school children centers (Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Voronezh, Samara, Kurgan, Tver, Rostov on Don, Taganrog, Novosibirsk, Ekaterinburg, etc.), the revival of media education seminars and conferences for the teachers. During the time when the intensive rethinking of media education approaches was on the upgrade in the Western hemisphere, in Russia of the 1970s–1980s media education was still developing within the aesthetic concept. Among the important achievements of 1970s-1990s one can recall the first official programs of film and media education, published by Ministry of Education, increasing interest of Ph.D. to media education, experimental theoretic and practical work on media education by O.Baranov (Tver), S.Penzin (Voronezh), G.Polichko, U.Rabinovich (Kurgan), Y.Usov (Moscow), Alexander Fedorov (Taganrog), A.Sharikov (Moscow) and others. The important events in media education development in Russia are the registration of the new specialization (since 2002) for the pedagogical universities – ‘Media Education’ (№ 03.13.30), and the launch of a new academic journal ‘Media Education’ (since January 2005), partly sponsored by the ICOS UNESCO ‘Information for All’. Additionally, the Internet sites of Russian Association for Film and Media Education (English and Russian versions) were created. Taking into account the fact that UNESCO defines media education as the priority field of the cultural educational development in the 21st century, media literacy has good prospects in Russia.
In North America, the beginnings of a formalized approach to media literacy as a topic of education is often attributed to the 1978 formation of the Ontario-based Association for Media Literacy (AML). Before that time, instruction in media education was usually the purview of individual teachers and practitioners. Canada was the first country in North America to require media literacy in the school curriculum. Every province has mandated media education in its curriculum. For example, the new curriculum of Quebec mandates media literacy from Grade 1 until final year of secondary school (Secondary V). The launching of media education in Canada came about for two reasons. One reason was the concern about the pervasiveness of American popular culture and the other was the education system-driven necessity of contexts for new educational paradigms. Canadian communication scholar Marshall McLuhan ignited the North American educational movement for media literacy in the 1950s and 1960s. Two of Canada's leaders in Media Literacy and Media Education are Barry Duncan and John Pungente. Duncan died on June 6, 2012. Even after he retired from classroom teaching, Barry had still been active in media education. Pungente is a Jesuit priest who has promoted media literacy since the early 1960s.
Media literacy education has been an interest in the United States since the early 20th century, when high school English teachers first started using film to develop students' critical thinking and communication skills. However, media literacy education is distinct from simply using media and technology in the classroom, a distinction that is exemplified by the difference between "teaching with media" and "teaching about media." In the 1950s and 60s, the ‘film grammar’ approach to media literacy education developed in the United States, where educators began to show commercial films to children, having them learn a new terminology consisting of words such as fade, dissolve, truck, pan, zoom, and cut. Films were connected to literature and history. To understand the constructed nature of film, students explored plot development, character, mood and tone. Then, during the 1970s and 1980s, attitudes about mass media and mass culture began to shift. Around the English-speaking world, educators began to realize the need to “guard against our prejudice of thinking of print as the only real medium that the English teacher has a stake in.” A whole generation of educators began to not only acknowledge film and television as new, legitimate forms of expression and communication, but also explored practical ways to promote serious inquiry and analysis—- in higher education, in the family, in schools and in society. Typically, U.S. media literacy education includes a focus on news, advertising, issues of representation, and media ownership. Media literacy competencies can also be cultivated in the home, through activities including co-viewing and discussion. In 1976, Project Censored began using a service learning model to cultivate media literacy skills among students and faculty in higher education.
Media literacy education began to appear in state English education curriculum frameworks by the early 1990s as a result of increased awareness in the central role of visual, electronic and digital media in the context of contemporary culture. Nearly all 50 states have language that supports media literacy in state curriculum frameworks. In 2004, Montana developed educational standards around media literacy that students are required to be competent in by grades 4, 8, and 12. Additionally, an increasing number of school districts have begun to develop school-wide programs, elective courses, and other after-school opportunities for media analysis and production.
There is no national data on the reach of media literacy programs in the United States. The evolution of information and communication technologies has expanded the subject of media literacy to incorporate information literacy, collaboration and problem-solving skills, and emphasis on the social responsibilities of communication. Various stakeholders struggle over nuances of meaning associated with the conceptualization of the practice on media literacy education. Educational scholars may use the term critical media literacy to emphasize the exploration of power and ideology in media analysis. Other scholars may use terms like new media literacy to emphasize the application of media literacy to user-generated content or 21st century literacy to emphasize the use of technology tools. As far back as 2001, the Action Coalition for Media Education (ACME) split from the main media literacy organization as the result of debate about whether or not the media industry should support the growth of media literacy education in the United States. Renee Hobbs of Temple University in Philadelphia wrote about this general question as one of the "Seven Great Debates" in media literacy education in an influential 1998 Journal of Communication article.
The media industry has supported media literacy education in the United States. Make Media Matter is one of the many blogs (an “interactive forum”) the Independent Film Channel features as a way for individuals to assess the role media plays in society and the world. The television program, The Media Project, offers a critical look at the state of news media in contemporary society. During the 1990s, the Discovery Channel supported the implementation of Assignment: Media Literacy, a statewide educational initiative for K-12 students developed in collaboration with the Maryland State Board of Education.
Because of the decentralized nature of the education system in a country with 70 million children now in public or private schools, media literacy education develops as the result of groups of advocates in school districts, states or regions who lobby for its inclusion in the curriculum. There is no central authority making nationwide curriculum recommendations and each of the fifty states has numerous school districts, each of which operates with a great degree of independence from one another. However, most U.S. states include media literacy in health education, with an emphasis on understanding environmental influences on health decision-making. Tobacco and alcohol advertising are frequently targeted as objects for "deconstruction, " which is one of the instructional methods of media literacy education. This resulted from an emphasis on media literacy generated by the Clinton White House. The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) held a series of conferences in 1996 and 1997 which brought greater awareness of media literacy education as a promising practice in health and substance abuse prevention education. The medical and public health community now recognizes the media as a cultural environmental influence on health and sees media literacy education as a strategy to support the development of healthy behavior.
Interdisciplinary scholarship in media literacy education is emerging. In 2009, a scholarly journal was launched, the Journal of Media Literacy Education, to support the work of scholars and practitioners in the field. Universities such as Appalachian State University, Columbia University, Ithaca College, New York University, Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, the University of Texas-Austin, The University of Rhode Island and the University of Maryland offer courses and summer institutes in media literacy for pre-service teachers and graduate students. Brigham Young University offers a graduate program in media education specifically for inservice teachers. The Salzburg Academy for Media and Global Change is another program that educates students and professionals from around the world the importance of being literate about the media.
Media literacy education appears to have a positive impact on overall youth civic engagement. Youth who attend schools that offer media literacy programs are more likely to politically engage online and are more likely to report encountering diverse viewpoints online.
A nationally representative survey found that 84% of young people think they and their friends would benefit from training on verifying information found online. The Common Sense Institute Research found that around the 50% of young people like to keep themselves informe and 2/3 of them want to be informed about the latest news of the world.
Beginning in the 2017 school year, children in Taiwan study a new curriculum designed to teach critical reading of propaganda and the evaluation of sources. Called "media literacy," the course provides training in journalism in the new information society.