Media literacy, a topic near the top of Cable in the Classroom's agenda over the years, has anchored the organization's recent activities.
CIC last week began disseminating "Thinking Critically About the Media," a special report to schools, educators and parents. It details a number of strategies that parents and schools might adopt to enhance students' media literacy. They include:
- Starting the literacy process as soon as kids watch TV;
- Planning an hour of "cognitive TV," in which values, ideas or information conveyed in the programming are identified or discussed;
- Previewing or reviewing TV programs or Web sites along with other families;
- Getting kids involved in producing media, so they experience the decisions and choices made in constructing media messages.
The report comes on the heels of an Oct. 15 meeting in Washington, D.C., at which officials from CIC, the National Parent-Teacher Association and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association gathered 25 educational and media experts for an inquiry into media literacy.
The discussion covered three areas: how media literacy is defined; how parents, teachers and students can increase their literacy; and the ways to accomplish that.
The event, attended by NCTA president Robert Sachs and National Parent Teacher Association president Shirley Igo, coincided with the Oct. 13 to Oct. 19 "Take Charge of Your TV Week," an event co-organized by CIC and the National PTA over the last few years.
CIC executive director Peggy O'Brien said the mid-October meeting — which stemmed from a literacy white paper the organization released to educators six months ago — found a new way to address the subject.
"Top-flight people came to the table and shared the best stuff they had" on how to boost child literacy, O'Brien said. "Another result is that we started to get the cable industry closer to what's already happening in media-literacy programs with both schools and parents. They are a part of this loop."
One concern raised was that in some areas, schools take on the full burden of increasing media literacy among kids, leaving parents out of the process, according to O'Brien.
"Making your way around a digital-cable lineup or the Internet doesn't necessarily mean you're a thoughtful user of either medium," she said "Kids are more fluent in both than either parents or teachers, but they still need to be taught critical skills around both media. And parents and teachers must work together with them to deal with the issue."