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Media Literacy and the Emerging Citizen

Youth, Engagement and Participation in Digital Culture

Paul Mihailidis

Media Literacy and the Emerging Citizen is about enhancing engagement in a digital media culture and the models that educators, parents and policy makers can utilize to place media-savvy youth into positions of purpose, responsibility and power. Two specific challenges are at the core of this book’s argument that media literacy is the path toward more active and robust civic engagement in the 21st century:
How can media literacy enable core competencies for value-driven, diverse and robust digital media use?
How can media literacy enable a more civic-minded participatory culture?
These challenges are great, but they need to be examined in their entirety if media literacy is to begin to address the opportunities they present for democracy, participation and discourse in a digital media age. By presenting information that places media literacy at the center of what it means to be an engaged citizen, educators and policy makers will understand why media literacy must be integrated into formal and informal education systems before it’s too late
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Chapter 5. Young Citizens and Perceptions of Social Media’s Value – A Disconnect Emerges


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But in addition to mass media and popular culture leisure activities, many people are discovering the pleasures of participating in digital media culture, being able to stay connected to friends and family, share photos, learn about virtually anything, and exercise their creativity by contributing user-generated content on topics from cooking to politics to health, science, relationships, the arts and more.

— Renee Hobbs, Digital and Media Literacy: A Plan of Action, 2010, p. 15

While the survey results provide a snapshot of behavioral trends in young people’s social media use, they don’t unpack causality: the reason behind adopting a new technology, behaving a certain way, or opting in or out of certain networks. This chapter examines conversations with over 70 students in eight small group discussions, which amassed almost 15 hours of open, vibrant, and occasionally humorous dialog about the role of social media in daily life. What do students see as the major impacts of social media in their lives? What about relationships with their friends and family? And how do they view social media’s impact on news, politics and democracy?

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