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Media Literacy can address a serious disconnect between young people’s media practices and any official media education in schools. Within public school contexts, concerns about appropriate use of the Internet and panics related to the dangers of the Internet (ranging from access to pornography to concerns that computer use can lead to obesity) result in parents, teachers and administrators electing to police and prohibit use of new media, rather than engage it creatively and critically. This leaves young people without critical tools for using and navigating media and ICTs, accessing media without constructive guidance and contextual knowledge. Some analysts suggest that a powerful new convergence among media systems will result in the proliferation of media and digital technologies into every aspect of social life, on the one hand, and a blurring of boundaries between entertainment, commerce and information and communications technologies (ICTs), on the other. At the same time, there are fears that a new “digital divide” is emerging, whereby access to and capacity for critical understanding of and engagement with media and ICTs are distributed in highly uneven ways, mapping onto other social, economic and regional inequalities. Despite these developments, and despite the primacy of media in young people’s lives, media education is neither provided in a systematic or equitable way, nor do community organizations and educators have access to research that would allow them to develop more effective and democratic media education strategies. While it is not the only response to contemporary trends in media and technology, media education curricula and pedagogies, based on current research and best practice, allow young people to develop capacities to become more critically aware and active users of media and ICTs—that is, to become active and autonomous citizens rather than passive consumers. With appropriate resources, knowledge and skills, media and ICTs can be powerful tools of communication, creativity, critique, persuasion and education.
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