Media Education: A Necessity

Ever since the media world has come into existence, new ways of its influences in its daily life has been seen. What was considered to be a boon has been realized to be a bane in many ways. The use of the media is often mired by controversy too. Here are a few quotes which makes us ponder about media’s role and its influences. These quotes were by famous people and perhaps signify how media has deviated from its intended path to another completely new one.

“Our job is to give people not what they want, but what we decide they ought to have.”Richard Salent, former president, CBS News.

“We live in a dirty and dangerous world. There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn’t. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets, and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows.”Katherine Graham, Washington Post publisher and CFR member. Thus we see that a similarity trend arises. People seem to interpret the use of media in their own ways, ways which will be of benefit to them. People with the power in their hands feel as if they are the authority to decide what to show and what not. When the press has an agenda, it is bound to be not wholly fair and just, as it was originally intended to be. Somewhere, down the line, human emotions, human wants, human intentions, greed, selfishness has come around to prohibit the working of a free press. Just as a utilitarian economy is a dream, a free just press is also nothing short of that.

The very essence of creating the press has been tarnished. As Hugo Black, Supreme court justice of The United States had rightly said:

“The Press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of the government and inform the people. Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government. And paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people.”

The media has failed to deliver in its promise of impartial reporting, unbiased writing and true delivery of facts to the public. In this scenario, believing in the facts of the Media and acting upon them can not only be hazardous but may be injustice to the one on whom the action is being taken. The influence of media on young minds are even the more so. This is because young minds are just getting to understand the world and how it functions. Young minds thus can be moulded more easily than adults who have formed more or less fixed opinions on a variety of issues, going by experiences, circumstances and need and wants.

Today’s world is as different from the yester years as chalk and cheese. The world today has hi-end products and a new definition of lifestyle. A consumer culture exists now which was unimaginable even a century ago. In this scenario comes the various forms of print – the digital, the print, the audio and the internet.

The internet and the television are the most influential among these. Both of these mediums not only gives us a plethora of knowledge but also enables us to see and visualise them. As the spread of the internet and the television medium reaches new heights, so are the malices of media influence too reaching mammoth proportions. Television channels and internet sites explode you with all sources and sorts of knowledge, which by its sheer quantity, makes you unable to grasp it.

The Influence of Media

Media influence started first in the West mainly because technological advancements in the world were first made there. In this regard, the western people have more experience than the East about media influence and their culture has been subject more to the whims of media influence than has the Indian society. Thus, if we look at the Western countries, we see clearly the marks left by media influence. There are authors like Jerry Mander who in his book ‘Four Arguments for The Elimination of Television’ have even said that the television is an evil which needs to be destroyed. It is no doubt seen that media forms especially television and internet produces devastating psychological effects on the minds of the people, especially those who are young.

It has been seen through many psychological studies that viewing too much of television effects thinking and behaviour at levels that even we may not know of. Slowly, as India advances, the problem of media influence is grappling us too.

In America, television has literally a huge effect on students and the youth. In fact, in some instances it is said that the first learning tool and curriculum for students is actually the television. That is their primary world from where they learn everything about the world, its ways, is morals and its ideals. Teaching, schooling and parents advices come next. The television as well as the internet has audio-visual instances which can keep the youth hooked and he does not feel them to be ‘preachings’ which he must follow, rather he thinks of them as a source of enjoyment and automatically the values and ideals in the television programmes become imbibed in his character. The problem here is that of the quality of the media sources and their contents. It is perfectly natural that television sources may not give the correct knowledge about places, people, history, economics, etc. Yet the youth and people get ‘influenced’ by what they see in the television or read in a newspaper and retain those thoughts and ideas, even if we do not at first subscribe to these ideas.

We inherently tend to have an ‘influenced spot’ in our brain of what has been told or seen by us through the media, though we may or may not believe it. This can be explained through a simple childish concept. When we were children, many of us didn’t believe in ghosts. Yet when any of our friends who believed in them, told us that ghosts existed and narrated ghost stories, we were afraid to go out in the dark for some time, even though we still believed ghosts didn’t exist. This was because though we did not believe in ghosts, somewhere or the other, an imprint of what ‘others’ said was implanted in our brain and we were influenced. Same way, people are influenced by the ‘others’ who are the different forms of media here.

New role models in fashion, eating, drinking, travelling – they all come up in our lives due to the influence of media. Media even shapes attitudes of ours in matters of relationships and sexuality. Thus in many ways, media tells us ‘How to look at the world’ rather than ‘This is the World’. If this ‘How to look at the world’ is not right, then it can have catastrophic consequences, not only for the individual but to the world at large. For example, if media teaches and advocates violence, youth of today may be influenced to commit violent acts. This would be detrimental not only to him but to the society at large. And if many youths follow suit, the stability of society itself would come under scrutiny.

Thus, we need to know how exactly should we tackle the problem? Though media is intended to give us news and information as well as provide us with entertainment and advertisement of products, today our world is centred across this media. And if there is no coinscience behind the running of this media, then it would be detrimental not only for our right to get the reality of things but for the society at large to live peacefully. Whatever the media dictates, contain values, beliefs, morals and ideals which are shaped up by the economic and political conditions of that time, and may not necessarily be correct.

Media Programmes and Media ‘World’

The virtual reality of the medi world is such that the real world has not taken a back seat. The virtual world is more addictive, you can have many shots at it, and you are always the dictator there. The youth are hooked on to video games where they are the masters and all others weaker than them. Moreover, these video games teach violence, illegal racing, murders, thefts and what not! For children as below as six years, there are cartoons like Shin Chan which have the concept of love and girlfriends. For a 12 year old, the programmes for them contain instances of sex and drug abuse. Family relationships and partying come into the programmes soon as the child reaches his teenage years. All these influence the youth to think that all these are accepted practices in the society and that all people do it. In fact many of the arguments these children have with their parents is based on the fact that “Other people do it, so why can’t I?”.

Impact on Indian Children:

India is a country which is relatively newer to face the problems of media influence and its repercussions. Yet, there are plenty of problems which can be seen throughout the nation due to media influence. A young child’s mind is moulded by the media pretty easily. With rapid modernisation and replacement of old beliefs and tradition with younger ones, India is going through a phase where the importance of media influence cannot be ignored.

For starters, the problem and repercussions of watching too much television are now coming up. People tend to be influenced so much by the audio-visual stimulation and those rapidly shifting images that they keep hooked to the television for hours. This has many negative effects. Due to the continuous movement in front of the eyes, the mind actually gets a lower level of concentration and the person has difficulty in concentrating. They cannot even perform a single task for long and become restless.

The need for new products which first become ‘wants’ and then ‘necessities’ also cannot be underestimated. Many youth and children have even committed suicide because they have not been given the things they consider ‘necessary’ things in life. The ‘necessary’ things are decided by media influence. Companies advertise their products to make them seem ‘cool’ to the children and youth and then they seem to just want them to increase their ‘status’ in the society.

Media even helps the youth to make role models. If the media are not responsible to give the real worthy people the limelight and give limelight to the best golfer in the world who cheated his wife for several other women, or make good stories of a drug addict celebrity people will then take these things for granted. And if they make these people their role models, they would see nothing wrong in perhaps being disloyal or smoking cigarettes.

The situation is such that if any youth has been left untouched by this media influence then he or she is made a social boycott within that group. He or she is excluded from that group and is mocked at for not having ‘even that simple knowledge’. Perceptions develop within them that the culture they prefer is great or the language they prefer is great while the other languages or cultures are inferior. It becomes so ingrained in them that it even comes at an unconscious level and people don’t understand that they are looking down upon something because of media influence.

The media too supplies programmes which cater to the needs of the people. The people want conflicts, clashes, quarrels and spicy stuff for content. So shows like Big Boss and Roadies is paving the way which teaches no morals but violence and bitching and the human nature at its wild best. If people continue to accept these programs then there is bound to be a culture change too, and violence and aggression will come back in a more powerful way into the society.

Sex and romance is now on the minds of even 10 year old and Bollywood movies and spicy tabloids helps the children to gain access to materials that are unsuitable for them easily. They, at their tender age, get easily swayed by these things and sometimes even commit acts which they shouldn’t. It has even become a status symbol now among the youth to have a boyfriend or a girlfriend, the roots of which can be traced back to the media influence on these people.

The Importance of Media Education

The media boom threatens to bring in new values by supplanting the exiting ones. Both family and school which are primary sources of information now become the second important one. This has what happened in the West and this is what is now happening in India. Families are changing and relationships too are undergoing sharp changes in India. Children are getting more addicted to violence and drugs and their behaviour and attitudes at school is also changing in an unprecedented manner. Thus if ever there was an opportune time to introduce media education in India, this is the time.

For imparting media education, we would have to shed the attitudes that are indulgent, passive, resigned or even antagonistic towards the mass media. Though media is undoubtedly powerful yet parents and teachers are not powerless to act against it. Many actions can be taken in this regard. Though media will be bound to exist and also it is no solution to regard all media as crap, yet discussion among parents, teachers and students should aim at developing a more informed perspective on mass media. This would help people to understand and use the media in a more measured and conscious manner. This is what is known as ‘media education’.

Parents and school can help restrict media activity as well as impart media education in the following ways:

At Home: The parents are responsible to see that children’s access to media is regulated and monitored. What they see and when they see, both are the duties of the parents to monitor. Parents need to be aware the influence and exposure to media the child is receiving and how much she could receive without sustaining psychological distortion.

At School: Here is the place where the effects of mass media can and must be neutralized. The schools could develop a course on media education which would create and understanding and working of the various media forms in the world and their influence. Moreover, in schools the power of specific media may also be harnessed in a more purposive manner. The schools can even make the children see programmes which are interactive and make them develop a liking habit for them instead of media programmes which distort culture and are harmful. Libraries of good ‘media content’ can be created too. In developing their curricula and modes ofinstruction, schools need to include the media environment itself as an object of critical study, while also using recorded audio-visual programmes and other modern media as a means of communicating subject matter in a vivid manner to students.

If we do not start moving now in the direction for curbing media influence very soon, every other people will be influenced every other way by these media programmes and there will be points of clashes all around. This pervasive power of the media in the world is what calls for ‘media education’. Media education would develop an intelligence which is capable of using the media for definite purposes without falling prey to its limiting and distorting influences.

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