Leadership Council Member, Emily Bailin Wells, talked with Rona Zlokower, Executive Director of Media Power Youth in Manchester, NH.
When did your org launch and why?
In 2001, I created Media Power Youth with pediatricians in Manchester, New Hampshire, to address the increasing influence of media on children’s health and at-risk behaviors. Media Power Youth has grown from a regional and statewide organization to national with online offerings of its evidence based curriculum Media Literacy for Safe & Healthy Choices. Media Power Youth’s mission has remained consistent through 16 years: to empower youth to lead safe, healthy successful lives through smart use of media.
As media have moved beyond print, movies, TV, music, and gaming to social media in all its forms, media are increasingly active participants in our children’s lives; providing the tools for them to communicate with each other and engage in the worlds around them. We believe that media literacy education helps youth make the connection and distinction between media content and its relationship to and impacts on real life and behavior.
Media are our children’s primary source of information and means of communication. Media also have profound impact on their health and decision making with increased instances of unhealthy behaviors and outcomes – from violence, bullying, anxiety and depression to substance use, sleep deprivation and lowered academic performance. The good news is that media literacy encourages thoughtful and positive media use by children, resulting in greater empathy, healthier choices, more connectedness, better conflict resolution skills and improved academic performance.
We try to change the way kids think about and use media so that they succeed in school, relationships and healthy decision making. Of course, that also means educating parents, family members and all those professionals caring for children.
In New Hampshire alone, over 190 NH school districts are using our curriculum and now, we have national recognition that demonstrates that it is effective. Still, educators, parents and professionals caring for kids everywhere are begging for help to teach children media literacy. We need to change that.
What does your organization do? What are its main goals? Main projects?
Media Power Youth (MPY) has become a nonprofit leader in media literacy in providing evidence-based media literacy education for youth, parents, and professionals. We do this by providing hands-on in person trainings, evidence-based curricula, and online training for educators and all those serving and caring for children.
We work in partnership with health and prevention programs, school districts, communities, research institutions, government, business and foundations is to provide a continuum of media literacy education from early childhood through young adulthood, contributing to healthy, safe use of media and prevention of at-risk behaviors.
What makes your organization stand out? What would you say is the most unique thing about your org?
We have stayed close to our mission, empowering youth to lead safe, healthy successful lives through smart use of media and understood early on the need to evaluate and prove our effectiveness. A partnership with CMCH, the Center on Media and Child Health at Children’s Hospital, Boston and our participation at local, state and regional levels led to recognition, and evaluation capacity.
Recognition from New Hampshire’s Department of Health and Human Services, the Governor and Office of the Attorney General, for violence and substance use prevention through media literacy, has enabled us the to provide our curriculum statewide in New Hampshire.
Ten years of program development and 3 evaluations by CMCH researchers led to the listing of our curriculum, Media Literacy for Safe & Healthy Choices on SAMHSA’s (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) National Registry of Evidence Based Programs and Practices (NREPP). We are listed for proving effectiveness in helping children make healthy decisions about media’s effect on violence, bullying, alcohol use, smoking, and food choices.
What are recent projects or new resources that your org would like to share with other NAMLE members?
Now we’re leading the charge to provide quality media literacy education training to educators across the country through state of the art online training in a partnership with PCG Consulting Group.
In partnership with PCG Education in Portsmouth, NH, we recently launched our Media Literacy for Safe and Healthy Choices online educator training, which prepares participants to implement our evidence-based curriculum for Grades 4-6. You can learn more about the Media Literacy for Safe and Healthy Choices online training at mediapoweryouth.org/programs/online-training/.
Soon, in partnership with the NH Department of Education we will launch, “Real Talk for Teacher About Media,” a series of 2 hr online courses covering the topics of Media in the 21st Center Classroom, the Ethics of Media Use, Social Media, Substance Use, Media and Healthy Sexual Development, Nutrition, Violence, Aggression and Bullying, all through the lens of media literacy. We hope will be able to share these with other states.
What are the connections between the work of your organization and media literacy?
Children need 21st century media literacy skills for healthy development and to achieve success in school, relationships and careers. Our health-focused media literacy education programs directly address the disparities in access to media literacy, health, and prevention education in early learning environments and school and after school community settings. At all levels, our students are taught skills to produce their own positive media messages and to safely and responsibly interact with media.
Why is media literacy important to you?
Media are our children’s currency, language, primary sources of information and means of communication. It is no longer an option to teach media literacy if we want our children to experience healthy development. Thoughtful and positive media use is linked to greater empathy, healthier choices, more connectedness, great self confidence and esteem, better conflict resolution skills and improved academic performance. If our children can think critically about all information and messages that are coming at them fast and furiously, we will have the opportunity to preserve democracy, human rights and protect our planet. And, children are and will be continue to be producers of media. We need to make sure they have the tools, knowledge and ability to do that responsibly for their own and our culture and society’s benefit.
Anything else about want our readers to know about your org, your mission, and your staff?
Our success in achieving national recognition as a leader in media literacy education is due to our dedicated, talented staff and successful partnerships with evaluators, educators, health and public health professionals, regional, state, and national organizations, businesses and foundations. We are proud to show that we can help children understand and use media to make healthy choices and succeed in all their endeavors.
Check out this video about our mission.
We welcome new partnerships. Please contact us. firstname.lastname@example.org