The American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) Policy Statement—Sexuality, Contraception, and the Media (2010) points out that “results of considerable research have indicated that media can have a major effect on young people’s attitudes and behaviors.” When it comes to the topic of sex, there’s plenty of opportunity for the media to exercise influence. One series of studies the AAP mentions have even suggested that the media may function as a kind of “superpeer” in convincing youth that sexual activity can be considered normative behavior for young teens.

The American media are filled with sexually suggestive material and our youth have plenty of opportunity to experience this content. It’s hard to imagine a time when the media could have assumed greater importance in the lives of our students than they do today. The Kaiser Family Foundation tells us that 8-18 year olds now spend on average 7 hours and 38 minutes per day using various forms of entertainment media.

With all this media use, it’s important to question how media are being discussed, analyzed, and evaluated as they relate to material we are presenting in our classrooms. As we address the topic of sexuality with our students, for example, we have to ask whether we are making the effort to integrate media literacy education into our curriculum. Media are obviously far more than sources of entertainment today. It is vital that our students learn to exercise critical thinking skills both as media consumers as well as producers of their own media. This section introduces some sample lesson plans as well as resources for those wishing to further explore the exciting field of media literacy education.

Sample Lessons Resources