How parents can make a difference through media literacy

Jean Kilbourne, EdD, shares advice for parents of how they can make a difference in their child's life by teaching them media literacy
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How parents can make a difference through media literacy

We all know what literacy is, that is the ability to read, the ability to write. Media literacy is the ability to process and understand and create media. So it's the ability to for example, deconstruct a commercial and understand what's being sold and what techniques are being used in that commercial. It's also understanding about the power behind the media. Who controls the news, for example, who decides what's in the news and what isn't. A media literate person would understand that there's a huge concentration of ownership of the media in our country. 95% of all the information that we get, all of them, movies we see, the books we read, the articles, everything. 95% of it is controlled by only five major corporations and these corporations are basically in the business of marketing. So a media literate public would really understand that and perhaps would demand better from these corporations. I think a media literate public would also not tolerate the kind of political advertising that we have in this country and that doesn't really exist in other countries because people would be educated to be able to deconstruct it and to understand the sort of emotional manipulation that goes on in these kinds of ads for example. So that's just one example of how media literacy would help us not only as parents but would help us as a democracy.

Jean Kilbourne, EdD, shares advice for parents of how they can make a difference in their child's life by teaching them media literacy


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Jean Kilbourne, EdD

Author & Social Theorist

Jean Kilbourne is internationally recognized for her groundbreaking work on the image of women in advertising and her critical studies of alcohol and tobacco advertising. Her films, lectures, and television appearances have been seen by millions of people throughout the world. She was named by The New York Times Magazine as one of the three most popular speakers on college campuses...

She is the author of the award-winning book Can’t Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel and So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood and What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids. The prize-winning films based on her lectures include Killing Us Softly, Spin the Bottle, and Slim Hopes. She is a frequent guest on radio and television programs, including “The Today Show” and “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” She has served as an advisor to the Surgeon General and has testified for the U.S. Congress. She holds an honorary position as Senior Scholar at the Wellesley Centers for Women.

According to Susan Faludi, “Jean Kilbourne’s work is pioneering and crucial to the dialogue of one of the most underexplored, yet most powerful, realms of American culture —advertising. We owe her a great debt.” A member of the Italian Parliament said, “Hearing Jean Kilbourne is a profound experience. Audiences leave her feeling that they have heard much more than another lecture, for she teaches them to see themselves and their world differently.”

She has received many awards, including the Lecturer of the Year award from the National Association for Campus Activities. A more unusual tribute was paid when an all-female rock group in Canada named itself Kilbourne in her honor.

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