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Reading Between the Lines

Have you noticed changes in media images over the past few decades? Over the years, the definition of what is acceptable has changed. On one hand, important social issues are being given more attention. On the other hand, many television shows, movies, music, and other media have become more graphic.

Have you ever thought about the role that media play in shaping public perceptions? Have you talked to your teens about it? They face a barrage of messages from television shows and movies, video games, music, and the Internet—all packed with ideas about what it means to be young, how to handle interactions with others, how to have fun, and how to gain status as an adult. Yet, teens may not be as equipped as we are to critically examine the parts of the message—its meanings, intent, context, and impact. And, because of teens’ extensive use of media and other technology, media have far-reaching potential to influence their values and culture—perhaps more than ever before.

Media literacy can help youth recognize and understand messages—subliminal or direct—delivered in song lyrics, television shows, movies, or advertisements or depicted on T-shirts and jewelry. Media literacy is defined as the ability to use critical-thinking skills in accessing, analyzing, evaluating, and creating media.

Resource for Families: SAMHSA’s Five Steps To Becoming Media Literate

The following concepts are related to media literacy:

  • Glamorization: Presenting alcohol use as glamorous and conveying desirable qualities such as popularity, success, and attractiveness.
  • Normalization: Presenting alcohol use as a routine, natural, and acceptable part of everyday activities.
  • Product Placement: Having an arrangement between alcohol and film production companies for a specific brand of alcohol to be used in a film or by an actor.