A mom’s perspective on media literacy
This is the second installment of Quinlyn’s intergenerational interviews with her family about Mediactive and media literacy.
This week, we’re talking to my mom, Lisa. She was born at the tail end of the Baby Boomers, so she often feels caught between two generations. Like her mother, she’s always been open-minded when it comes to emerging technologies. When she and my dad started their small business in the late ‘90s, they were quick to adopt computers and the internet. (Of course, we still haven’t converted her from AOL to Gmail, but we’re working on it.)
Raising internet-savvy kids
We started chatting about Mediactive’s second module — Becoming an Active Media User — and how she engages with media. But as those who know her will attest, she is incredibly family-focused and the conversation soon turned to me (22) and my brother (18).
“My children were part of the first generation to grow up entirely on the internet, so I had to decide early on what I was going to do about that and how to keep them safe,” she says. “The hardest part for me was that feeling of ‘not knowing what you don’t know’. But we worked through it day by day.”
Luckily (or unluckily) for her, my brother and I were always technologically savvy. He played simple video games when he was barely tall enough to reach the desktop computer, and I started a blog at age 11. She didn’t try to stop us from following our passions — in fact, she encouraged them — but she did talk to us about being careful on the internet. We learned young that whatever you post is online forever and can easily alter your future (positively and negatively). We weren’t perfect kids by any means, but at least we listened to her about that!
Staying informed (and positive)
One of the main concepts Mediactive teaches is “Going Outside Your Comfort Zone,” which proved a natural fit for my mom. When I was growing up, she would often switch between news networks (both cable and local) in order to understand the full picture.
“I’ve always enjoyed reading both sides of an argument,” she says. “It’s the only way to be truly informed. I was really glad to see this presented in Module 2 because most older people don’t think about viewing sources they aren’t familiar with. This gives them a reason to do it.”
We also talked about “Slow News,” which is the concept of taking your time with reporting news as well as sharing it. “We didn’t have the 24-hour news cycle [when I was growing up], so it was slower by nature. But now that we do, we have to consciously be more discerning about what we see and hear. Not only that, but we have to give it time to be proven or disproven,” she says.
If this sounds overwhelming to you, you’re right — it certainly can be. My mother has often had to be the media literacy expert of her extended family, vetting sources and arguing the truth when others would not. But despite the struggles, she remains positive about media:
“I feel overwhelming gratitude for what the Internet has afforded my children. Of course, it has a down side, as all forms of media do, but I believe the good far outweighs the bad and that my children are part of the generation that will take media forward in a positive way. I have no doubt that there are exciting times ahead.”
We’re all in this together
I wonder if people my age would have a different or deeper understanding of the Boomer generation and their interpretation of mass media if we sat down and talked with them about it. Everyone’s heard the “OK, Boomer” meme, but how many of us have actually tried to understand the underlying history and motivations behind what our older relatives believe? No doubt there will be tricky subjects to deal with, but if I’ve learned one thing from interviewing my mother and grandmother, it’s that exploring those tricky subjects (with an open mind) is a great tool for solving media-driven conflicts between generations.
As my mom says, “I learned from you and you learned from me. Together, we figured it out.”
We hope that the Mediactive course can help you and your loved ones navigate these kinds of conversations. Sign up here for free.
Quinlyn Shaughnessy is a Mediactive teaching assistant with a love for all things media-related. She holds a BA in Mass Communication & Media Studies from ASU’s Cronkite School and can usually be found typing, reading or watching.