President Obama to US students: Practice new-media literacy

Work hard to find and pursue your unique contribution was the basic message I heard the President tell American students this week – what I think the US’s founding fathers and mothers meant by “pursuit of happiness” in their historical context. More to the point for NetFamilyNews and its readers, though, was something he said in the Q&A session with students after his 19-min. speech at Wakefield High School in Arlington, Va., that Reuters zoomed in on: that they need to be careful about what they post in social network sites because what they upload “could come back to haunt them in later life,” according to Reuters. “The presidential words of advice follow recent studies that suggest US employers are increasingly turning to sites such as Facebook and News Corp’s MySpace to conduct background checks on job applicants.”

You could say that the President of the United States is promoting new-media literacy – the kind of media literacy that employs critical thinking about what we say, upload, and produce online and with digital media as much as what we see, download, and consume. I use “new-media literacy” interchangeably with “social-media literacy” (see this post), but really we’re also talking about a new kind of media literacy (unhyphenated) that employs all the old media-literacy skills while embracing new (interactive, multidirectional) media delivered on multiple devices and platforms; the old one-to-many mass media still exist, are definitely in the mix, but we are not truly media literate any more if we are mindful only of what we’re consuming. Media use is behavioral now, too, right? I’m glad that smart student asked Obama “for some advice on becoming US president.” Social media are a factor now, and the new media literacy is protective of reputations, prospects, friendships, and safety, as well as good for social and cognitive development.


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