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Expert: Critical Thinking Key To Understanding Media Influences

Posted October 12, 2001

— Young people are growing up in a culture that is filled with images and messages. Some call it a "toxic culture," while others say it is all part of growing up in a technological society.

Parents play a big part in channeling the right information to children.

"Would you let a complete stranger come into your home if you knew that stranger was going to use foul language, teach your children to disrespect you and be violent? Of course people say 'Oh, no,' yet they pay for satellite dishes and cable to bring it in," says Dr. Peter DeBenedittis.

DeBenedittis, or "Peter D", is a media literacy expert. He travels around the country teaching young people how to be more critical of the messages they see, hear and read everyday.

"In all of Europe, Canada and Australia, media literacy education is mandatory. The U.S. is about the only developed country that does not require that our children learn about how media influences them. We definitely need that placed in our schools," he says.

DeBenedittis' goal is to help kids and adults understand that the media messages swirling around us are created to inspire or sell a certain opinion or response. When you look at the messages more critically, you are less likely to be influenced by the images and can make a distinction between what is real and what is not.

"We need to teach critical thinking skills and we need to analyze who's sending the message and why and once young people know that, they are a lot better off," says DeBenedittis.

To learn more about media literacy, especially dealing with violence in the media, join "Peter D" on Sat., Oct. 13 at 7 p.m. at the McKimmon Center in Raleigh. The free event is for parents, educators and teenagers.

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