What is Media Literacy?

Media Literacy is the ability to interpret and create personal meaning from the thousands of verbal and visual symbols we take in through TV, radio, computers, newspapers, magazines, and advertising.

It's the ability to choose and select, the ability to challenge and question, the ability to be conscious about what's going on around you and not be passive, and therefore vulnerable.

To become media literate is not to memorize facts or statistics about the media but rather to raise the right questions about what you are watching, reading, and listening to.

Critical Viewing Questions

Ask yourself:

1. Who created this message and why are they sending it?

2. What techniques are being used to attract my attention?

3. What lifestyles, values, and points of view are represented in the message?

4. How might different people understand this message differently from me?

5. What is missing or left out from this message?

Interesting Statistics

    TV Advertising

  • Young people see an average of 100 TV commercials a day and 16,000 billboards, print ads, and corporate logos. (Leslie Savan, The Sponsored Life)

  • Most kids can list more brands of beer than American presidents.

  • If an advertiser pays $1 million to place a 30 second commercial during the superbowl, each of the 900 frames (30 frames/second) costs $1,111.


  • One in four Americans say that they are so attached to TV that they wouldn't surrender their TV sets for $1 million. (TV Guide Poll, June 1992)

  • 2/3 of kids live in homes with three or more TV sets. (Children Now)

  • The number of hours spent in front of a television or video screen is the single biggest chunk of time in the waking life of an American child. (AMA)

  • By age 18, the average kid will have watched 22,000 hours of TV, more time in front of the tube than in a classroom. (Children Now)


  • The average American child will have viewed over 200,000 acts of violence by the time of high school graduation, including 40,000 murders. (Center for Media and Public Affairs)

  • The largest topic of stories involving youth was specific violent crimes, their aftermath in court, and the potential for violence. Only 6% of all stories about youth featured youth accomplishments. (Berkeley Media Stoudies Group)

  • Children's TV contains about 26 violent acts per hour.

  • 92% of Americans believe that television contributes to violence. (US News and World Report) Do you?


  • People of color (the vast majority of human kind) make up less than 11% of prime-time TV and less than 3% of children's programming.

  • 43 million Americans are physically or mentally disabled. They appear in 1.5% of prime-time TV programming, and usually appear as victims or freaks.

  • Male voices made up 85% of front-page newspaper references. When females were covered as the main figure of a story, more than half were victims or perpetrators of crimes or alleged misconduct.

  • 75% of people interviewed by the nightly news were men. (Women, Men, and Media)