by Vicky O’Rourke, Atlantic Technological University, Ireland.
In my role as a Lecturer in Marketing, I had a keen interest in how children learn to become consumers, and the role educators can play in this process. My Doctoral studies, carried out through Queen’s University Belfast, presented an opportunity to explore this interest further. My doctoral research considered the extent to which educators can develop children’s media literacy, and if doing so influences children’s wellbeing. In 2018, I carried out a pilot randomised controlled trial and found out that 4 lessons of a Media Literacy teaching intervention can positively impact children’s wellbeing.
The study, which was published in 2022, in the Journal of Media Literacy Education, focused on the level of media literacy education delivered in class to children aged 8-12 and its relationship to their wellbeing. I collected paired data from 7 schools in Ireland, recording gender and the wellbeing scores of 324 children. 200 children were in the intervention group and 124 were in the control group. During the ten-week period between pre-test and post-test data collection, the intervention group received 150 minutes of media literacy education using a free online teaching resource called MediaWise. Teachers in the control group received these teaching materials after the study was completed.
The study uncovered statistically significant findings and confirms that 4 lessons of a media literacy teaching intervention can positively impact children’s wellbeing. On average, children in the intervention group experienced an increase of β .168 (p = .037, CI .010 to .325) in their post-test wellbeing scores when pre-test wellbeing scores and gender were controlled for.
As technology advances and children become more tech-savvy, parents and educators must further consider the impact of media consumption on children’s wellbeing. Without proper education and guidance, children can be vulnerable to harmful media messages and content. My research shows that teaching children between the ages of 8-12 media literacy concepts can have a positive impact on their wellbeing.
The findings draw attention to the significance of teaching critical media literacy skills to young consumers. More media literacy lessons in school is one way to help children accurately interpret message content and make informed assessments of media messages. Promoting a balanced interpretation of message content and mitigating against unintended effects of media consumption is a societal challenge. Together with parents and peers, educators can help the development of critical media literacy skills in children, helping children navigate the complex world of media and enhancing their wellbeing.
For more information on the study reported here, please see: O’Rourke, V., & Miller, S. (2022). Improving children’s wellbeing through media literacy education: An Irish study. https://doi.org/10.23860/JMLE-2022-14-1-7Journal of Media Literacy Education, 14 (1), 94-107
Dr. Vicky O’Rourke (EdD), Senior Lecturer in Research Development, Faculty of Business, Atlantic Technological University, Ireland .
Vicky’s research focuses on areas including marketing innovations, marketing ethics, and advertising literacy. She is interested in the development of consumerism in children and the role of education in this development.