Two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more clear than ever that dealing with the misinformation surrounding COVID-19 requires us to come at it from every possible angle. We have needed trusted voices to provide strong, clear and sharable counter-messaging on social media.
Parents could be forgiven for thinking that our children are born media literate. Kids take to digital devices like the proverbial ducks to water, quickly becoming expert at finding the videos and games they want, and it’s a rare baby shower that doesn’t feature Elsa or Elmo in one form or another.
Not many words have had a rise as meteoric as the term “algorithm.” Once only familiar to mathematicians or computer scientists, today algorithms are the subject of warnings from scholars and activists, protested by students whose future lives and careers are increasingly determined by algorithmic decision-making, personified and catered to by would-be YouTube stars, and seen as the almost magical element that is vital to the success of newer platforms such as TikTok.
Finding programming that the entire family enjoys, with kids at all ages, can sometimes be difficult. When the kids were little, it was great when we found a cartoon that we all enjoyed. The same challenge has continued as the kids have gotten older. With preteens and teens, their television tastes change (I have a child who loves a good fantasy action show or movie, and another who much prefers comedy). However, we have discovered one type of programming we all enjoy: reality shows. Especially those with a competitive element to them (although transformative TV is popular, too).
As your kids grow older, their gift requests may start to look a lot different than when they were younger. While they once circled all the toys in the holiday catalogues that arrived at the door, now they are sending parents text messages or Google Docs with links to their wish list items.
Many families have media traditions around the holidays – whether that’s watching A Charlie Brown Christmas together or staging a Mario Kart tournament on New Year’s Day. It’s great to make media a family activity, and it’s also an opportunity to co-view with your kids. In fact, holiday movies practically demand co-viewing: whether your tastes run to It’s a Wonderful Life, Die Hard or Christmas Vacation, odds that that if you watch with your (appropriately-aged) kids you’ll see something that makes you uncomfortable. Maybe it’s a racist stereotype in a cartoon, or a scene that makes stalking and harassment look romantic, or yet another kids’ movie with just one female character. What do you say?
If you have children who have access to a phone and the ability to text, you may be venturing into a completely new area of communication with them. Have you noticed emoji replies? Or abbreviated statements? GIF-only responses or memes that you have to Google to understand? You aren’t alone.
So what should parents make of this?
They say the future comes when you aren’t looking. This Media Literacy Week, we are reflecting on how the pandemic has changed how we interact with media and each other. Certainly a few years ago, not many of us could have imagined we’d be spending a fair portion of our lives doing video chats, which were considered obsolete and mostly reserved for keeping in touch with friends and family far away.