They Said It: Talk About the Message
By Bob Sprankle
I’ve started carrying out my yearly Internet/Media survey with
my third and fourth graders. It’s a survey that is a mashup
of some of my own questions and questions from Common
Sense Media. The responses and discussions are essential to
take a “pulse” on understanding what has changed since the
previous year, what tools are now being used, and how attitudes
and habits have changed.
One positive change this year is that students
are reporting that they are searching
more with the aid of a parent rather than
independently (one of the things we strongly
encourage at the elementary age level).
One particular response in the survey
hasn’t changed at all. When asked the question
(created by Common Sense Media)
“Have your parents talked with you about
what media means or what its messages are?” more than
85% of students are reporting “No.” This is similar to what
the data showed last year.
Media Literacy plays a prominent part of the technology
curriculum. We look at advertising, message, medium, etc.
However, if the conversation is only happening at school,
it’s not enough. I’d go so far to say that if the conversation
isn’t continuing or further reinforced at home, then the lessons
at school are largely ineffective.
After looking at the data together, I asked students to
describe typical shows they watch on TV (including DVD
movies) and what kinds of conversation happens around
them. First, I realized that my 4th graders are watching
some pretty mature content (the Twilight movies and CSI
episodes, for examples). Secondly, when I asked what kind
of conversations they were having with parents around
what happens in the program, they confirmed that there
wasn’t any conversation.
I shared with my students typical conversations I have
with my daughter while watching TV or movies. For example,
my wife and I had many discussions about whether or
not to allow our daughters to watch the popular young
adult show, Glee, and finally decided to allow it. If this show
isn’t a “stop, turn, and talk” show, I don’t
know what is. Our family has had many really
good conversations due to the issues or
topics that the show has brought up. And I
mean real conversations, like, “What do you
think about that?” or “What would you do in
this situation?” or “What questions do you
have about this issue/topic?” I learned later
that if you go to the review page about Glee,
there’s actually a “Families Can Talk About”
section to help get these conversations started.
Let me be clear here: I’m no super dad, but I believe it’s
important to have conversations about the media, to examine
it, to question it, to talk about our likes and dislikes. The
thing that we have tried to do is show that we value discussions
and reflections around the media that we’re exposed
to. We value our daughter’s ideas, her tastes, and dislikes.
What are your thoughts? Whose job is it to talk about the
media our young students are coming in contact with? Are
your students having conversations with their parents? Are
parents aware of what media their students are ingesting?