Brecke Boyd Explains Facts and Online News

Tag: school

Media Literacy and the Obesity Crisis

Many schools have already implemented Media Literacy classes to help young adults sift through what’s real, what’s semi-real, and what’s totally false in their newsfeeds and Snap stories. From politics to “adult entertainment,” these media literacy classes attempt to equip students with the tools they need to discern the information they should base their decisions on.

One surprising area? Food advertisements. In the US, children suffering from obesity go on to develop lifelong problems, including diabetes, joint pain, cardiovascular diseases, and more. Some blame the problem on the lack of accessibility of healthful foods for both geographical and fiscal reasons. Others blame poor nutritional education, both on the parents’ part and the children’s part. The advertising industry has also taken some of the flack for marketing the salty, oily snacks to kids and using devious tactics to make the snacks seem better than they are.

Advertising dangerous activities to children has been taken very seriously for some time. In the 1990s, the cartoon camel used to advertise Camel Cigarettes came under fire as children began looking forward to the cartoon and associating the camel, and thus smoking, with fun. The company chose to settle a lawsuit alleging its complicity in convincing children to smoke and pulled the cartoon ad altogether. 

Some nations have taken some more drastic measures to stop the promotion of harmful substances and snacks to kids. In 2016, eight nations declared that no advertisements for junk food could be aimed at children, and Chile took an especially drastic approach by outlawing the beloved mascots Tony the Tiger, among others, that make junk food appealing to kids.

In the US, though, such sweeping policies aren’t likely to catch on, so educators are taking a different approach — media literacy for food advertisements. That way, young people are more aware of the marketing tactics, half-truths, and imagery that snack companies use to convince them to purchase junk over healthful options.

Virginia Tech rolled out a program designed to help people practice looking at snack ads with a critical eye to point out what information they’re omitting and the other ways their desires for the foods are being manipulated. For example, ads often suggest that a person can become more popular or attractive if they purchase and consume the snack in the ad. The program asks users to create “counter ads” to sugar drinks by drafting alternative taglines that offer more truth than the original.

While widespread inclusion of food literacy may take some time, but it could save lots of money down the road in healthcare costs once today’s youth become adults.

Back to School Media Literacy

Brecke Latham Boyd Back-to-school Media LiteracyIt’s getting to be back-to-school time again. In addition to all the frantic shopping that parents are doing to prepare their kids for a fresh school year, parents also spend these last precious days and weeks mentally and emotionally preparing their students for the realities of the social scene. From bullies to the “popular kids” to respecting teachers and law enforcement officers, there’s a lot of precarious navigating that young people have to do in between — and often during — learning time.

This year, though, it’s more important than ever for parents to equip their kids with the tools to wade into the political thickets, social media swamps, and rumor weeds and come out the other side educated and unscathed. With the modern state of politics, the ubiquity of social media, and the crashing waves of information and data that enter people’s purview hourly, young people need some sound advice and a strong moral compass for determining who to trust and where to go for the facts. Here’s some ways you can equip your child for the upcoming school year emotionally and mentally.

Ask For Sources | Rumors get started because nobody fact-checks information, and stories get exaggerated at every retelling. As you prep your child for the realities of returning to their 8-3 schedules, encourage your child to pause and consider how they can verify what they’ve just heard. Can they Google the claim? Can they ask the subject of the story? Even in a classroom, it’s well within the etiquette of respectful discourse for your child to ask a teacher where a claim about a historical fact or statistic came from.

Find Out What Others are Saying | Critics all across the political spectrum have been accused of “cherry picking” their news sources and academic studies such that they cite only those that bolster their viewpoints and omit those that prove detrimental to their agenda. Teachers aren’t immune from this, and neither are kids at the mercy of rumor mills. If your child happens upon a claim that seems a little too good to be true or a story to which there may be multiple sides, urge your child to explore what dissenters are saying. Where is their information coming from? What are some of the underlying assumptions on any side of an argument?

Don’t Repeat Unchecked Info | As I’ve talked about lots and lots of times before, social media has exacerbated the issues of people spreading unverified information. Claims, accusations, and “discoveries” will cross your child’s consciousness all day long. In insular communities like school buildings, students determine their social standing by when word of a rumor hits their ears, and as such, it’s tantalizing for students to spread both current events or juicy personal details as soon as they hear it. Get your student in the journalistic mindset of seeking out truth and professionally-researched opinions before they report on it to their friends and Twitter followers.

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