Saturday, 13 April 2013

Media Literacy


 Photo: In the studio with Proffessor Dr. Muhammed Zin Nordin and P.hd research scholar Manolakshmi Pandey Raj. (photo courtesy: Ronak Singh) 

A few weeks back I had the privilege to interact with Professor Muhammed Zin Nordin, faculty of ‘Modern Languages and Communication’, Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris, Malaysia. The discourse was on Media literacy in the present world today. Media literacy as far as I know, has been overlooked by almost everyone.
Media literacy does not only confine to the knowledge of using computer and being able to access the internet or having a set of smart TV. Media literacy refers to the way in which we access information. It brings under its realm the security issues of the internet and the content we access.
Internet is now not only the game of the professionals but also the requirement of the students, housewives and the common masses. Its usage is widespread and boundless unlike any other form of media. Also it is the only form of media which is least censored and globally available with the utmost ease.
Dr. Zin Nordin had conducted a research on ‘Media Literacy Campaigns for Children’. The results of the research were not pleasant but expected. It is the common practice of the schools and teachers to provide assignments to the students on various topics. As the topics are usually comprehensive, it has become a practice to check the internet.
Without my reminding anyone, it is a commonly known fact that the tradition of copy and paste has become quite frequent after the introduction of assignments to syllabus and Wikipedia to internet. Many of the students, according to the research, were a victim to this practice.
 It was also depressing to note that the teachers, with their already over burdened tasks, are not able to rank their students fair. Scary enough was the fact that these teachers are satisfied to mark their students’ assignments, which had been copy-pasted, with comments such as ‘excellent’ or ‘great work’. It is obvious that they are not really interested in the accuracy of the content or the process of acquiring it.
The other side of the picture is even grimmer. On being interrogated the students admitted that they are not really aware if the contents that they have acquired are actually true or false. That is to say, they have no clue which website they have visited, the authenticity of the website, the security issues concerning the website, or a single knowledge of their assignment for which they have been marked ‘excellent’.
With more ignorant and underage users the security issues on internet becomes a bigger concern. However, do not be mistaken that it is only the ignorant and the underage that fall under the radar of the internet risk. So far I have only been stressing on the finds of the research.
To talk about internet security, begin with passwords. Experts say that more than 90% of the internet literate do not follow the protocol of changing their password every 3 or 5 days. Forget what the experts say, consider yourself and question if you regularly change your password every few days?
I, as a communication student, a media literate, do not bother to change my passwords for the numerous accounts I have online. To tell a lay man to change his password therefore seems a lost cause.
Here, Media literacy, comes into play. It is basically to inform people about the various risks online and the threat it can be to their lives. It believes in using the internet in the right way, so that it does not have any rebound effect.
It also teaches the people access the right contents the right way. Self censoring and self regulation play an important role in media literacy. Like I have mentioned earlier, censorship is least effective in internet. It is a medium where pornography and Doraemon are available side to side.
A senior of mine mentioned that when her 6 year old niece accessed the Youtube to watch a certain cartoon show, the half nude add of Old Spice is shown as a preview. It is in such cases that regulation becomes essential. For an under aged minor, parental guidance and elder supervision is necessary.
This guidance can be carried on until the child is old enough to know and judge for himself.
 I, a major propagator for freedom of speech, do not believe in censoring the internet so that it does not harm the innocent or the sentiment of the people. For, every rule can be by-passed, every restriction can be sidestepped.
Instead, the noble idea of self regulation should be propagated more vigorously. For, the human mind can be controlled and restricted only by him and not by any law or censorship. They should be provided with choices, so as to choose what is morally right without anyone forcing the morale down their throat.
Media literacy aims to educate the people about the various features of media and the ways to access it. It basically teaches the people how to use internet the right way so that they are benefitted without being at risk and also not being a risk to the people around them.
Special thanks to Professor Gopalan Ravindran
HOD, Journalism and Communication
University Of Madras




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