You'll never watch TV the same way again.
If you're reading this, you're literate. Congratulations! But are you media literate? Can you read TV, ads, music, and Facebook posts as well as you read everything else?
In this lightning-fast fifteen-lesson course, we'll break down the main topics in Media Literacy: critical media consumption, bias, intellectual property, and basic communications theory. Oh, and because we love to have standards, the course has been designed to meet the standards for the National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE). You're welcome.
Unit 1. Media Literacy
These lessons will give you all the deets on how to read media: from TV to advertisements to the Interwebs and back again.
Sample Lesson - Introduction
Lesson 9: Private School, Part 1: Beware the Share
Don't you want everyone to constantly know exactly where you are, what you're doing, what you look like, what you're saying, and which websites you're visiting?
Unless you're a contestant on Big Brother, the answer is probably no. Most people in America want a little (or a lot) of private time, and they want to be able to do whatever they desire (ahem) without anyone watching.
At the same time, though, we're sharing more of our personal lives than ever these days. There's Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Vine, and hundreds of other places to share your personal information.
So how do we balance the desire to share information and the desire to keep some of it to ourselves? Phone number? Home address? Social security number? Pictures of your Superman underoos? You don't want that to be online, seriously.
But it's getting harder to control what's out there.
Almost everybody's got a camera in their pocket that can post photos to the Internet in seconds. Nothing's stopping anybody from snapping a picture of you, tagging it by time and location, and uploading that sucker online. And once a piece of information is out there on the Internet, it's really (really) hard to take down. As if that weren't enough, there are new inventions on the horizon that'll make it even tougher to stay out of the public eye. Google Glass, anyone?
We'll spend the next two lessons working through the question of privacy on the Internet. First stop: oversharing.
Sample Lesson - Reading
Reading 1.9a: Think Before You Post
We're going to give you three simple guidelines about sharing information online. Why? So you can avoid making huge, embarrassing mistakes.
1. Everyone can see it, now and forever. If you share anything online, you should make sure that it's something you'd be comfortable with anybody in the entire world seeing, now and in the future. That includes: your parents, your teachers, the people who might hire you for jobs, the people you might want to ask out on dates...everybody.
Even if you have privacy settings set on your social networking site (let's say, Facebook) so that only your friends can see it, that doesn't mean it's totally private—what if someone hacked your friend's account and saved your post? What if someone hacked Facebook and stole everything you posted? What if you forgot to log out one day and someone saw your post? The list goes on and on.
Not that we're paranoid.
2. Once it's online, it may never go off. You've got to assume that the stuff you'll share will stay there forever. Let's say your pants suddenly explode, and someone decides to take a picture and post it online somewhere: there's not much you can do about it, except beg the person or the website to take it down...but other people might download it to their computers, where nobody can do anything about it. And those other people can pass it around on other websites. And they might be total strangers, who knows? The point is, once information's out there, it's insanely hard to get rid of.
Oh, and the companies you're giving your information and posts to—Facebook, Google, and so on? They have the ability to store your information, even if you delete it. So there's only one way to really keep anything private: don't share it in the first place.
3. Nobody is really anonymous. You might think that you're totally anonymous online, but even if you create fake accounts and use anonymous "proxy browsers," there are still lots of ways that computer experts can trace the information back to you, sooner or later. When you post something online, you've got to assume that there's some chance that people can link it back to you, unless you're a pro at hacking.
The bottom line of all three guidelines?
Don't share anything unless you're okay with everyone seeing it—permanently.
Sample Lesson - Reading
Reading 1.9b: Face the Facts
Facebook is everyone's go-to site for oversharing. Heck, its mission statement is "to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected." Mission accomplished, Facebook.
In 2010, Facebook's founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg spoke to an audience at an awards ceremony about Facebook's role in making that happen:
Talking in San Francisco over the weekend at the Crunchie Awards, which recognise technological achievements, the 25 year-old web entrepreneur said: "People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people."
He went on to say that privacy was no longer a 'social norm' and had just evolved over time. (Source)
Okay, so Facebook knows that it's making the world less private. That very same year, Business Insider dug up an online conversation between "a 19-year-old Mark Zuckerberg and a friend shortly after Mark launched The Facebook in his dorm room":
Zuck: Yeah so if you ever need info about anyone at Harvard
Zuck: Just ask.
Zuck: I have over 4,000 emails, pictures, addresses, SNS
[Redacted Friend's Name]: What? How'd you manage that one?
Zuck: People just submitted it.
Zuck: I don't know why.
Zuck: They "trust me"
Zuck: Dumb f**ks. [Censored by Shmoop.]
Hmmm. Hmmm. Of course, the 19-year-old Mark Zuckerberg diddling around in his Harvard dorm room is different from the guy who's running a $90-billion company one decade later. But it goes to show you that people are more or less willing to hand over their personal information to someone they don't know at all, who might use it for any number of purposes.
P.S. Anyone else notice the irony in his comments? Thanks, Internet, for proving our point.
Sample Lesson - Reading
Reading 1.9c: Policy No Evil
Facebook has come under fire time and again in the past for making changes to their website that some people thought were invasions of privacy. Why? That's what we're about to find out.
You're going to go straight to the source and read something that everybody on Facebook ought to be reading, but almost nobody does: Facebook's complete, official Data Use Policy. It's just part of the pages and pages of fine-print that people usually skip over when they're signing up for Facebook (or any other service, for that matter). But we Shmoopers are more careful than that, right?
Go ahead and read it.
Now, some of that may be stuff you more or less assumed already, and some of it might have surprised you. For example, they say that they can "access, preserve and share your information in response to a legal request (like a search warrant, court order, or subpoena) if we have a good faith belief that the law requires us to do so." But what exactly is a "good faith belief" is? Who defines it? Is it basically just "whatever we feel like"?
Then there's this part: "When you post things like photos or videos on Facebook, we may receive additional related data (or metadata), such as the time, date, and place you took the photo or video."
BTW, these privacy policies change all the time—like, whenever Facebook feels like it, basically—so it can't hurt to scoot on back and check it out every now and then.
Oh, and there's also some proof that real-world laws are catching up to the hazards of posting stuff online. Just recently, California just signed a law that lets minors "erase" stuff that they've put online, if they request it. Technology changes fast, so if you're going to keep using it, you've got to keep an eye on what it does.
Sample Lesson - Activity
Activity 1.9: Oversharing is Overcaring
Ever feel like some of the information you see online can get a little, um, TMI? Do we really need to see the omelet your aunt had this morning or the jillionth picture of a cat lying on a windowsill? And do we need to know that you really didn't want to get out of bed this morning?
But in the other hand, who's it really hurting?
Your task: create (or re-create) your personal policy for posting things online. You'll make two lists: things that are okay to post online, and things you think should be kept private.
Here are a few question to consider as you compile your list:
- Are there things you won't post online just because they might annoy other people?
- What are your rules for tagging people in photos and posts? Are you ever annoyed when people tag you?
- What information about yourself are you willing to put on your various online profiles?
- On the social media platforms you use, did you change your privacy settings from the default in any way? How, and why?
- What purposes do you use Facebook for, usually—making announcements, cracking jokes, letting your friends know what's happening in your life, just saying whatever's on your mind, or all of the above?
- Do your rules depend on which platform you're using?
- Course Length: 3 weeks
- Grade Levels: 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, College
- Course Type: Short Course
- Technology and Computer Science
- Life Skills
Just what the heck is a Shmoop Online Course?