THE IMPACT OF MEDIA VIOLENCE ON CHILDREN & ADOLESCENTS:
A Challenge for Educators and Parents to Foster Safe School Communities
For further information please contact Shanna Burns, Centre Manager with the CAMH Centre for Prevention Science (email).
Free downloadable resorces include Media lesson
Click on the links below to download the free resources.
Elementary Unit Topics:
JK/K/Grade 1 - Live Action and Animation; Good versus Evil
Secondary Unit Topics:
Canadian Politcs and Citizenship (CPC3O) - Making the News
Parent Brochure - Download
This project has been made possible due to the financial assistance from the following organizations: Elementary Teachers Federation, Ontario Secondary Schools Teachers’ Federation, Ontario Principals Council, Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association, Ontario Public School Boards' Association, and Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association.
In 2008, the first edition of the Media Literacy CD resource was released, containing sample units of study that were integrated with Ontario’s curriculum for grades JK-12. All lessons are easy for teachers to use and are designed to enhance the critical media literacy skills of students and to make sure our children and youth have critical skills in their consumption of media. They were developed by teachers for teachers.
Now, a second edition of the Media Literacy CD resource has been released. Nine additional units of study have been created, once again including teacher–friendly lesson plans that are clearly connected to existing curriculum expectations. The second edition Media Literacy CD includes integrated lessons for grades JK-8 and specific lessons for the following high school courses: ENG1P, ENG2P, ENG3C, ENG4C, and OSSLC. The lessons developed for these courses could be adapted to meet the curriculum expectations for a number of other program areas, including English, History and The Arts. In addition, we have included a Parent Brochure that can be distributed to help parents understand the risks and benefits of media consumption. These resources have been added to the online data base.
Although most parents and professionals working with children and adolescents are concerned about the potential harmful effects of media violence, there has been little societal intervention other than classifying material that may be inappropriate for children to watch. Recent publications such as the Action Agenda (A Strategic Blueprint for Reducing Exposure to Media Violence in Canada published by Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General in 2003) have offered a compelling review of the literature. This review points out the extensive nature of media violence in the lives of children with access to violent material through multiple sources including the internet, video games, television, movies, sports and popular music. The American Academy of Pediatrics, in speaking to a 1997 US Congressional public health summit, summarized the concern in these words: “The level of violence to which children are exposed through media has reached such horrific proportions, health professionals, parents, legislators and educators agree that something has to be done.”
What is to be done? Beyond controlling what younger children are exposed to, censorship has little support in public policy and legislation. However, there is some consensus that potential strategies include enhancing the critical media literacy skill of students, as well as providing public awareness initiatives and education programs and resources to assist parents and teachers in confronting the issue of violence in the lives of children. Our priority is to provide children with the critical literacy skills to improve achievement in school and to develop healthy relationships free of the influence of media violence.
Critical media literacy involves the active analysis and critique of texts and is an important part of the Ontario policy curriculum for student literacy. Students taught to approach media and print texts from a critical literacy perspective understand that all texts are constructions and that texts are not neutral. They have different purposes and target audiences and a range of meanings interpreted according to an individual’s age, gender, ethic background, and life experience. Critically literate students are able to question text: they ask questions about language, power, social groups and social practices.
When teachers teach critical media literacy skills in the classroom, they equip students to adopt a questioning stance to texts and to work toward changing themselves and the world around them. Unlike censorship approaches to the teaching of media literacy which presume a defensive strategy on the part of teachers, critical media literacy teaching approaches are proactive, going beyond critical thinking to challenge students to take on social responsibility and social action.
Teachers and educators need to be aware of what currently is being marketed to children, and to inform parents of the impact of violent media on children’s development. The need to promote critical media literacy in the classroom is of paramount importance. Resources that can be integrated easily into the curriculum, through a critical media literacy approach about the effects of media and ways that media distorts the reality of violence, must be readily available to teachers. These resources and lessons can help reduce the potential negative effects of exposure to media violence.