While some advocate censorship as the way to keep offensive material from children, others advocate media literacy to preserve first amendment freedoms.
Throughout the history of the United States, there hasn’t been a constitutional statute more tested than the first amendment. Although this amendment provides many protections to the American people, the one we are most concerned about is the right to free speech.
Over the years, many have attempted to limit our freedom of free speech, but few have succeeded. In America we have the right to state our opinions to the degree we deem appropriate. But as with all freedoms we have in America, we must be careful not to use our right to overshadow the rights of others. Issues of libel come into play when our freedom of speech rights infringe on the rights of others.
As new media outlets are created, and as more and more people have access to the production of media, the battle for free speech continues. New ideas and ideologies have made their way into the media in recent years. Of course, some of these ideas have been met with worry or complaints. Some new ideas may be controversial or may defy some people’s expectations.
This is where the question of censorship comes in. Do we censor material some people may find offensive? Are we within our rights to do so? Is there another route we can take that would allow for the continued protection of free speech while not being exposed to the controversial content?
The answer is simple: media literacy. Through media literacy we can ask questions about the media, including those media messages we find controversial, and can decide to accept or reject those messages. By understanding the media message, we can decide whether it is appropriate for our children or not.
If media literacy is used to decide whether to watch a controversial television show or read a contentious newspaper, the need for censorship disappears, thus helping to protect our first amendment right to free speech.
Media literacy teaches us to ask questions about the media before accepting its messages. Who sent the message? What is the message’s intention? When did I receive this message? Where was the message placed for my consumption? Why was the message sent? How do I view this message and might others view it differently?
These questions hold the answer to understanding the media, and to maintaining our rights to free speech.