Challenging Crossroads: Children and the Media

Apr. 3, 2013

ST. LOUIS, April 3, 2013 – It is estimated that children spend an average of 7.5 hours per day in front of a screen for entertainment. The shows they watch, the games they play and the websites they visit have the ability to shape their developing view of the world around them. But what messages are they receiving? What are the benefits and the drawbacks for this media-focused generation? These questions will be explored during the Media Trends 2013 conference at Webster University's Geneva campus.

Numerous speakers– including six from the Webster Groves campus - will present information and lead discussions around the topic of “Challenging Crossroads: Children and the Media, to be held April 8 – 10. Panels that will be held during the fourth annual conference include discussions on media ethics, protecting children on the Internet, media activism, child exploitation, children's health and media literacy.

“Technology has changed our reality,” said Jennifer Rieger, adjunct professor in the School of Communications. “Teens are inundated with films and video games and alternate reality games that bridge the gap between truth and fiction.”

“It is becoming more of a challenge for them to be able to view the media surrounding them with a critical eye and learn how to properly digest what they are viewing,” said Chris Rubin de la Borbolla, adjunct professor.

The new forms and uses of media pose a challenge for parents and educators as they attempt to help this generation interpret what they are seeing.

“It all comes down to media literacy – the medium may change from decade to decade but the critical thinking skills are timeless,” said Art Silverblatt, professor in the School of Communications. “If we're not media literate, we can't understand what the media is doing to us. At an earlier age than ever before this generation needs to think critically about media messages, no matter how credible the source seems.”

Silverblatt will be presenting on “The production approach” in media literacy education and how this method works with younger students.

 “Media communicators make different production choices all the time to shape their message, whether it's the camera angle or the images they select and omit,” Silverblatt said. “These choices are intentional and they shape the story being told. Helping students develop these critical thinking skills at an early age can help them to be more educated consumers of media.”

Julia Griffey, an assistant professor in the School of Communications agrees that media literacy skills are a necessity for children.

“Media literacy can be taught by teaching media production,” Griffey said. “By offering students the hands-on experience of producing media they can increase their own awareness of the nature of media messages. As they learn to construct their own messages through what they are creating, they are able to look more critically at the work being created by others. Teachers have a tremendous opportunity to help coach them through this process and help them manage these productions.”

Julie Smith, an adjunct professor in the School of Communications will also present on the importance of educators in shaping children's media literacy.

“There are countless media tools that students are using for fun – these ‘Web 2.0 applications' also have a role in the classrooms,” said Smith. “Applications like Skype, Instagram and Twitter are already timely and interesting to students – educators can use these tools and others in the classroom to help shape their experiences with the applications and help students to figure out best practices.”

Becoming media literate and figuring out best practices is just part of the equation for this generation. Another important opportunity for education is helping students understand the full power of their message.

Don Corrigan, a professor in the School of Communications, will share the stories of three different adolescent girls in three generations to demonstrate effective uses of the media to bring about great change.

“Throughout time, students have always struggled with ways to communicate their messages – some of these struggles have been groundbreaking,” said Corrigan. “From Cathy Kuhlmeier in the 1980s who went before the Supreme Court to argue for her right to free speech in a school paper to Malala Yousufzai who merely started a blog telling her story about dealing with the Taliban and ended up winning a Nobel Peace Prize. Students have the power to change society through their media choices. These conferences are valuable for educators and industry leaders to realize our role in helping to inspire this change.”

Six professors from Webster University's St. Louis campus will be presenting at the conference.

  • Julia Griffey, assistant professor – “A Case Study in Building Media Literacy Skills via Hands-On Production Experience”
  • Julie Smith, adjunct professor – “Web 2.0 Applications as Media Literacy Tools”
  • Art Silverblatt, professor – “International Media Literacy: A Conceptual Framework”
  • Jennifer Rieger and Christopher Rubin de la Borbolla, adjunct professors “Alternative Reality and Teenagers: Why So Serious?”
  • Don Corrigan, professor – “Inspirations: Engaging Youth in Media” and “Student Journalism: Becoming a Watchdog”

Tammy Rosso, head of the Media Communications department at Webster University's Geneva Campus, organized the event. For a complete look at the full program and the other speakers, visit the Webster University Geneva website