Empowering Youth Through Media Literacy: Navigating the Complex Digital Landscape

Ghita Metboue, Morocco

Media in today’s world is a complex and constantly evolving landscape, with both opportunities and challenges. This article will explore the importance of educating and promoting media literacy in today’s digital age, how media can be used as a powerful tool for empowering young people to become actors of positive change in communities and abroad, and finally discuss how media can significantly play a role in manufacturing the consent of the youth.

Media literacy is the ability to access, analyse, evaluate, and create media in a variety of forms. It involves understanding how media messages are created, constructed, and disseminated, and being able to critically evaluate and interpret those messages in our increasingly media-saturated society. In today’s digital age, media literacy is a crucial skill for young people to develop, as they are exposed to an overwhelming amount of information through various media channels. Young people need to be equipped with the knowledge and skills to navigate the complexities of the media landscape. In short, media literacy is important in today’s world because media messages are all around us, and they have a significant impact on our beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours. By developing media literacy skills, individuals can become more informed and critical consumers of media, and can also become better creators of media content. This can help to promote more accurate and balanced media coverage, and to foster greater understanding and communication.

Media can be a powerful tool for empowering young people to become actors of positive transformation in their communities and beyond. Referring to advocacy and community building, media can help young people to connect with others who share the same skill of leadership and willingness to be the change they want to see in their society. By using media and participating in online communities, the youth can work with one another to create positive change in their communities. For example, they can create social media campaigns, produce videos or podcasts, or write blog posts that highlight important issues and call for action concerning numerous issues such as climate change, human rights, women’s disengaging in patriarchal societies, health care, etc. For instancee, in recent years, young people in Morocco have been increasingly using social media to raise awareness about climate change and to advocate for climate action. These youth-led initiatives have been instrumental in bringing attention to the urgent need to address climate change and in mobilizing support for climate action in Morocco and beyond. One notable event is the CLIMTNA Caravan organized by the European Union from April 28 to July 4 2023. The “Climtna” climate change caravan is a continuation of the “Climtna” information and awareness campaign introduced last year on the radio, on the internet and on social networks. It intended to give voice to local associations and project leaders working to limit the impact of climate change within the framework of the Morocco-European Union partnership, and to encourage young people to engage in concrete and sustainable actions. As a part of the Morocco-European Union Green Partnership, the “Climtna” Climate Change Caravan sought to connect Moroccan Youth from various regions of Morocco and enhance their knowledge in terms of increasing awareness of the necessity of environmental preservation and climate change mitigation initiatives. This endeavour received extensive publicity on social media platforms, particularly Instagram, where this initiative was able to reach a larger audience and engage young people from various backgrounds.

The media can play a significant role in shaping the opinions, beliefs, and values of young people. By presenting certain messages, images, and ideas in a particular way, the media can influence young people’s perceptions of the world and their place in it. This can result in the manufacturing of youth consent, where young people may adopt certain attitudes, beliefs, or behaviours without critically examining them or fully understanding their implication, as the manufacturing consent theory suggests. The “manufacturing consent” theory was originally proposed by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky in their book “Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media” in 1988. The theory suggests that the mass media, which includes newspapers, television, radio, and other forms of communication, serve to manufacture the consent of the public to the interests of those in power. They argue that the media does not provide a neutral or objective view of the world, but instead presents a biased and distorted version of reality that supports the interests of the dominant class. They argue that mass media accomplishes this by a process of “filtering” information, where news stories are selected and presented in ways that support the interests of those in power, as advanced by the agenda setting theory. Agenda-setting theory, first introduced by Maxwell McCombs and Donald Shaw in 1972, suggests that the media does not tell people what to think, but rather what to think about. The media can set the agenda by deciding which topics to cover, how much coverage to give them, and how to present them. It also suggests that by controlling the public agenda, the media influences the salience of issues and ultimately shapes public opinion and policy decisions. The latter is also supported by the media framing theory, introduced by Erving Goffman in 1974 in his book “Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience”, which suggests that the media has the power to shape how events and issues are presented to the public by framing them in a particular way. Media frames can influence how the youth understand and interpret events and can ultimately shape public opinion and policy decisions. Goffman proposes that frames are mental structures that help people make sense of the world around them by providing a framework for understanding and interpreting information. Moreover, he suggests that frames are used by individuals to organize their perceptions and experiences of reality, and that significantly proves the powerful impact that media has in manufacturing consent.

 The rise of fake news, misinformation, and propaganda can lead to the spread of harmful conspiracy theories, stoke fear and panic, and even contribute to violence and social unrest. With so much information available, it can be difficult for people to distinguish between reliable sources and those spreading false or misleading information. Therefore, the youth should promote media literacy, they should advocate for policies and regulations that promote media diversity and ensure that media outlets are held accountable for the accuracy and fairness of their reporting. Young people need to be critical consumers of information, and work together to promote transparency, accuracy, and accountability in media. It’s only through this that the youth can become informed and engaged citizens, able to navigate the complex media landscape, contribute to positive social change and be the change they want to see in society.