User:ANUBHUTI YADAV/media literacy in India

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== Abstract ==

Today children are bombarded with powerful images, words, and sounds from various media, which are designed to win their minds and hearts. Adults have life long experiences, the advantage of age backed with education, as filters to navigate these powerful messages. But children don’t. For them mass media is everywhere, all the time in school, at home, at shopping malls, in parks. They are growing up in media saturated environment and with these burgeoning media availability came the problems like television ‘s connection to increasing obesity, body dissatisfaction, aggressive behavior, promoting stereotypes etc. The paper looks at two aspects of media. The first aspect is the impact of media on children both negative and positive and the second aspect is media literacy as solution to outweigh these negative impact The paper will also reflect upon the pedagogy of media literacy education.


The media industry in India is growing at a very rapid pace.According to Centre for Media Studies report ‘Media Scene as India Globalises’ the turnover of media sector is more than 400 billion and is growing at around 18 percent per year. According to Dinyar Contractor, editor, Satellite and Cable Television Magazine, in India one can receive up to 325 channels. There are 49,145 newspapers in India . Total number of periodical registered with RNI is 43442. In addition to these we have around 230 AIR stations and 139 FM channels of AIR and 37 private FM channels entertaining children and youth across the country. Despite such gigantic growth of media in India, kids’ entertainment genre has been starved of good content. Big production houses have stayed away from this. However, now things are changing for better following the success of ‘Tare Zameen Par’ film dedicated to children and their problem and various animated version of our epic heroes or mythological characters like Hanuman & Krishna. But these steps are miniscule to cater to the entertainment as well as educational needs of 50 crore children of India. Children are still watching content made for adults whether it is soap operas or the news. The production houses, which are involved in making programmes for children, are more concerned with profits and consider it as one of the business enterprise. The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT), an organization which has influenced Indian school education considerably since its inception in 1961, is also involved in making educational programmes besides publishing books, conducting educational research and training programmes. The responsibility of making such programmes for children lies with one of its constituent - the Central Institute of Educational Technology ( CIET). Despite the fact that the programmes developed by the CIET are aired on DD 1 which has the maximum viewer ship in India, the target audience for the programmes are limited reason being the time slot allotted to it which is either too early in the morning or at the time when most of the students are in school. As a result children end up watching the programmes which are actually not meant for them and not watching the programmes which are really meant for them. This is what makes them ‘The New Kid’.

The New Kids?

Children these days are often accused, by the psychiatrists, of growing up too fast. They are tagged as KGOY- Kids Grow Up Young. Dr. Samir Pareekh, a leading psychiatrist, feel reason for this phenomenon can be attributed to the fact that the younger generation has more access to answers to their queries with different forms of media . Psychologists also feel that the new generation is detached lot. In a recent cross-cultural study in US, youngsters were asked whom they would turn to if they had a problem. The first choice was music. Computers came second and people finished eight. But then there is another school of thought which says the new generation has always been more informed, more connected and with more power. Children nowadays are tyrants. They contradict their parents, gobble their food and tyrannize their teachers -Attributed to Socrates in the year 425 BC. The media today, no doubt, has entangled kids in their thick knit-web of virtual reality. Recently in India we have witnessed various instances of increased aggressive behaviour among students including shootout in one of the Gurgaon’s popular school - a suburb of Delhi. In America, after the school shootings at Columbine, newspaper and magazine articles began to decry the negative effect of video games on young people. Similarly in India, post shootout there were numbers of articles appeared in newspapers and lot of panel discussions took place on television accusing increased portrayal of violence in media as one of the factors responsible for increase in aggressive behaviour among children.Not just instances mentioned above but like a kid beating up his friends as his favorite comic hero. Or jumping off a cliff like superman and still more of those violent acts are but some of the instances, which should ring, alarm bells among the sensitive lot.

Effects of mass media

The media no doubt has an effect on children but it is really very difficult to prove a direct connection between them. It is like watching rainfall on a pond and trying to figure out which drop causes which ripple.( Philips 1998).But one thing is for sure that the ripple is there because of media. Researchers have documented numerous effects related to both the amount of media consumed and the content of media consumed. Many negative outcomes are correlated with increased amount of viewing T.V. These include lowered school performance ( Huston et al, 1992, Robert et al, 1999, William, Haertal and Walberg, 1982) increased aggression( American Academy of pediatrics, 1995, Strasberger and Donnersien, 1999), increased obesity( Gable slatz, 2000) and the prevalence of symptoms of Psychological trauma( Singe, Slorak, Frieerson& York, 1998) . In addition to these negative effects there are many positive effects of mass media. Rice , 1983:Rice Houstan, Truglio, & Wright, 1990claimed that there is a link between the child as language learner and the child as television viewer. Television dialogue should serve as a source of new words for preschoolers. Television stimulates imagination as long as the child does not depend on it for imaginative activity ( Singer & Singer, 1986) and it can be used to increase creativity and tolerance( Rosenkoetter, Houston and Wright, 1990). It can teach prosocial behaviour( de Groot, 1994:Forgeand Phemister, 1987, Potts, Huston& Wright, 1986: Rushton, 1988)and it can move extraordinary numbers of people to act charitably, as has been demonstrated by many telethons, aid concerts, and other media initiative at the time of disasters. It can dramatize historical events, entertain and inform. It can provide role models for children and teach coping skills (Hattemer and Showers, 1995: Libert& Sprafkin, 1988). Media has both positive as well as negative impact on children but people often overstate the negative effects of media on children. Media are not the only elements that can lead to children’s violence, antisocial behavior and bad habits. Other factors, like society, parents, communities, can also influence their behavior. In fact, if there is a control on the exposure to media in moderation, children can be benefited a lot from media culture. Children do get inspired by the social messages. The Central Institute of Educational technology, NCERT, India is involved in developing educational programme for children and often the social messages are integrated in these programmes with a view to make them responsible citizens of India. To such initiatives lot of children respond enthusiastically and try to take up responsibilities like planting trees, keeping the environment clean and teaching the underprivileged. Most of the time media is blamed for all the negative effects. However the fault not only lies in the media as they at times do take a lead to broadcast educative informative, altruistic and positive behaviour as well. It’s just that some specific viewing like violence, substance abuse or other forms of harmful behaviour when viewed by children leads to a negative impact. Such an impact can be prevented provided the media and society at large, inclusive of parents and schools opt for precautionary measures and concentrate on purging the society of all its evils before the virtual streams drives our kids down the robot way. Parents should give extra guidance and clear up the perceptions by giving children a reality oriented explanation whenever required. “Parents and teachers should deglamorize what a child sees so that reality orientation is maintained. Factual explanation should supplement every supernatural act so that the perceptions are cleared up and reality and virtual life separated.” Said Dr Samir Parikh . Youngsters should be protected from exploitative marketing techniques—as part of an all out bid to halt the rise in childhood obesity . Media scholars maintain that the media have become the storytellers of our culture. In India, the children were used to listening stories from their parents, grandparents or other members of the family but due to the changes in social structure which have taken place in recent years in the form of emergence of nuclear families, gender role reversal, working parents, they are more exposed to the mass mediated storytellers in the disguise of Mickey mouse, Dora the explorer, Blue Clues, Shak Laka Boom Boom, Shaktimaan and so on so forth which is coming from a small group of distant conglomerates with something to sell. Today children are at a very confusing time in their lives trying to figure out what to learn and what not to learn from media. Many countries have reacted to the explosion of media by including media literacy through media education in the school curriculum.

Media literacy is given different names by different people like  television literacy, critical receivership skills, critical viewing skills, or more broadly, critical thinking. They employ different nomenclature but demonstrate similar purpose and methodologies. The main idea behind introducing media literacy at school stage is to help students to develop an informed and critical understanding of the nature of the mass media, the techniques used by them, and the impact of these techniques" (Ontario Media Literacy Resources Guide, 1989). To be media literate is to watch carefully and to think critically about any media text. 

Media education has been taught since at least 1960s in England and in countries like Australia and Great Britain. Norway and Canada have had extensive media education programs for years. In many countries Media literacy is a voluntary program. In some countries media education is still a new concept, including educators.

Media Literacy in India

In India at primary and secondary level media is treated as an intercurricular subject that is taught by being integrated into other subjects to develop skill of enquiry, self-expression, creativity, aesthetic development and democratic participation that are the thrust areas of National Curriculum Framework 2005 .

In the text books developed by the

National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) on the recommendation of NCF 2005,

media have been discussed at length to develop rational, analytical and critical understanding of media texts that students use in classrooms and in out of school contexts.

In India the increasing role-played by the media, its influence and impact on the society has become a part of NCERT textbooks. The new chapter-mass media and communication included in the social and political life for class VII students analyses how media sets agenda and how market has become central to its functioning. The chapter has covered all forms of mass communication including television, radio, films and newspaper and the Internet. Besides areas like market, technology and media’s role in society has been discussed in the chapter. The section on how media sets agenda also contains case studies to help students understand the concepts and exercises to critically analyze reporting by newspapers. There is a also a chapter on advertising which explains the concept of advertising along with various forms of advertising and how it manipulates us into buying things we don’t need. Another NCERT textbook titled ‘Abhivyakti and Madhyam’ introduced at senior secondary stage is all about media writing. The focus is on introducing students to various forms of media writing. Another such attempt is a book on creative writing and translation titled ‘srijan’. The media content has been used extensively in NCERT textbooks to explain concepts like democracy, caste system, world politicsetc. NCERT has also developed syllabus for media strudies for classes XI and XII and the development of textbook is in process. This is a humble beginning towards media literacy. Keeping in mind the number of messages children receive every day in variety of forms across all ages there has to be more inputs on media, which will help them to become a wise consumer of media. Even 2-year-old responds to media messages hence the media literacy should be an integral part of curriculum planning. There has to be a systematic and methodical media input at every stage from primary to upper primary to secondary and higher secondary. There is a need to develop critical media pedagogy. Other than media inputs in NCERT textbooks there are many other media literacy initiatives in India.

CIET, NCERT initiatives in media literacy

Central Institute of Educational Technology, a constituent of NCERT, promotes utilization of educational technologies especially mass media viz radio, TV satellite communications and cyber media either separately or in combinations to widen educational opportunities and improving quality of educational processes at school level. As Buckingam (2000) stresses, media education must include learning not only about media analysis, but experiencing hands on media production. The CIET has also contributed to the field of media literacy in a similar way by involving students in production of programmes. In collaboration with the five State Institute of Educational Technology institutes namely Hyderabad, Pune, Bhubaneshwar, Ahmedabad and Lucknow school going children in the year 2008-2009 were trained in making video programme. The media production exercises were aimed to teach students applied skills and put them in a role of producer and the production assignment which were given to the them were on the issues of social justice and social change. To motivate such young talent CIET introduced a new category for nomination in its 13th Annual children’s educational Audio –Video festival- Best Student Production. The Educational Audio Video programmes made by the children and for the children were showcased in the festival that was held from 27th February to 2nd March at NCERT campus in New Delhi. In the 14th Annual children’s educational Audio –Video festival students participated enthusiastically and noted actor and director Mr. Nassirudin Shah, who was the chief guest of the award ceremony, urged young filmmakers to listen to their heart and make film which depicts the reality. Encouraging children, he said, put your energy in making programmes that depicts reality rather than putting your energy in trying to make those programmes interesting.

Gandhi Media Literacy Programme

Gandhi Media Literacy Programme for children was initiated by Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samiti in 2003 as part of the centenary year of Indian Opinion, the journal started by Mahatma Gandhi in South Africa in 1903. The programme is implemented in several schools of Delhi, Chandigarh, Solan (Himachal Pradesh) and Belgaum(Karnataka). The Gandhi Media Literacy Programme is aimed to help Parents, Teachers, and Students to become more discriminating in the use of mass media, to help them to distinguish between reality and fantasy and separate fact from fiction, think critically about media messages and help them to consider whether media values are their values. As part of the Gandhi Media Literacy Programme, the Samiti has launched The Yamuna, a global children’s newspaper. It is presently a quarterly newspaper and has child reporters not only in different parts of the country but also in other countries. The samiti also organised workshop in the Rastriya Buniyadi Vidyalaya, Kumarbagh Brindavan Ashram, Bettiah, Champaran in 2006 to develop critical understanding of the media and imparts media training amongst children and youth, to help them to develop better communicative skills , competence development and life-long learning.

“More than 100 girls have been empowered through this programme and are now taking up various social causes. They bring out a quarterly newsletter highlighting problems of the area.” Said Mr. Vedavyas Kundu, Programme coordinator, media literacy programme.

In the words of Ratna Kumari, a trainee, “Earlier we would hardly read the newspaper or listen to the radio. As there is still no electricity in our village, television is out of bounds. But after we got involved in the programmes and activities of Gandhi Smriti especially the media training programme, we started reading the newspaper critically. We had scant interests in what was going on around us, but now we firmly believe that we need to bring about a change. We realize how those who are running the system are taking poor people for a ride. If we young people continue to be indifferent, the situation will slump further. There will be no checks on corruption and poor administration.” 

Balvani Voice of the Young

Thirty children were selected from 10 villages of Lalitpur. Aged eight to fourteen, these kids are being trained to become child reporters by Saarthi Foundation, an NGO working for children in the area, supported by UNICEF. The sketches, text and poems produced by the children depicting the reality of their surroundings – at home, school and the community at large – reach key decision/policy makers in the district and the state in form of the bi-monthly magazine Balvani. The training aims to sharpen the power of observation and expression of the children helping them become the eyes and ears of society.

Comic strip on alcoholism by Laxman Singh Negi

There have been examples when children were taught about media and the difference they made in society. These children explored the advantages of media in a an excellent way For example Laxman Singh Negi, a 12 year boy from Gharwal, Uttaranchal, is a perfect example of how a even little effort can make a big difference. His comic strip on alcoholism made such an impact that many villagers quit drinking after it was showcased at Bal Panchayat organised in Garwal by PLAN, a child centered development organization. The United Nations committee on the rights of the child gave him an opportunity to be a part of an international conference at Geneva held on September 15, 2006.

UNODC-Quest programme on media literacy

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime ( UNODC) in collaboration with Quest the school's programme of the Indian Express organised the Media Literacy workshop. More than 50 teachers from schools in Delhi attended the workshop. The workshop was an initiative to train them to make their students aware about the harmful affects of drugs and how media messages need to be interpreted correctly to avoid drug abuse. The objective of the seminar was to spread mass-based awareness amongst the youngsters, from class 6 onwards.

Media has created a virtual family for children who spend more than 4-5 hours per day on Internet, television, advertisements and radio. But the problem is that media sends down 'one way traffic', which means that the messages sent down by media are not argued. The whole agenda was to drive home the message of 'I decide'. The child should have his own definition of beauty, lifestyle etc.

The experts from UNODC discussed about the harmful effects of drugs and how things like cough syrup, eraser fluid and petrol are intoxicating drugs. A media literacy kit has been developed by the Quest team, which was given to teachers so that they can teach the students how to distinguish from reel and real media portrayals. Similar workshops were organized in Chandigarh and Pune.

School KFI workshop on Media and Education

The School, KFI, Chennai hosted workshop on Media and Education from 4-6 January, 2002 . The workshop was organized to illuminate the issues surrounding the media and its increasing use by children and adults, and to create openings for educational interventions. The workshop was structured in three parts: 1. It aimed at providing perspectives and insights into the functioning of various media, especially the print media and television. 2. It exposed teachers to tools of analysis that could be applied to understanding the impact of different media products. 3. It provided space for teachers to begin creating modules for use in the classroom.These modules were aimed at helping children develop a facility in deconstructing the structure and messages of various media products. The eventual goal of the workshop was to enable teachers and students to become more informed and discerning users of the media.


Media has become very important in the lives of children as they spend lot of time with it. They learn from it and they get entertained by it. Keeping in view the importance of media in society, it is important that the children start understanding it rather than just being a passive viewer or reader. The way we help children to understand language, social science, science and mathematics similarly the time has come that they should understand media as well. Till now the focus all over the world was on literacy which meant the ability to read and write. But today when students are learning a lot from various media other than print there is an urgent need to focus on media literacy as well. Called by various names in different parts of the world, the efforts towards media education strive not only to guide adults and children to be better, more responsible, more responsive recipient of media content, but also at times to influence the media managers and governmental bodies responsible for overseeing them. The various projects on media literacy across the world also hope to influence the quality of media content by developing selective, non passive audiences who seek out and support program content of high quality. Some projects also strive to influence directly media decision-makers, structures, and content by activist (or "reactive") involvement. The ubiquity of media in children’s life calls for more intensive and extensive efforts for systematic media literacy education. Inserting education into already crowded school curricula is a challenge everywhere. But if that challenge is not met, children will be left unprepared to deal with one of the most powerful forces shaping their lives.


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