You are suspicious and concerned about the way that economic systems and institutions influence our everyday lives, particularly through the media we use. You want your students and your peers to be more mindful of the ways that things are bought and sold. Who owns and controls the media content that we see, hear, read, and play with? How do advertising, public policy, and media ownership affect our relationship to consumerism? Why is it often so difficult for students to ask critical questions of powerful children’s media industry leaders like Disney or Nickelodeon? You sometimes feel solely responsible for giving your students a “wake-up call” about the economic and institutional inner-workings of the media, and the world, that surrounds them.
Debunking myths and “tricks” in advertisements, popular culture, and mass media.
Fostering students’ skepticism about the motivations of media institutions.
Helping students guard against pervasive messages that glorify consumerism.
Helping students to ask critical questions about the systems through which media is created, distributed, and used.
Developing students’ concrete understanding about media’s relationship to economics and politics.
Encouraging students to create their own work that challenges the dominance of consumerist messages, such as public service announcements or parodies of mass media and popular culture.
Watchdog teachers are often the first, and sometimes only, catalysts for students’ major “aha moments” as they start to make connections between institutions and systems of power and the media they use. Watchdogs capitalize on children’s sense of power in debunking “trickery” or identifying manipulation in order to help students understand complicated political systems and other issues in democracy and civics.
Watchdogs’ focus on systems of power can sometimes lead students to adopt a cynical view of media ownership—and fostering students’ cynicism at a young age can be “fuel for the fire” for students who are already skeptical of the systems of power (in their schools and communities) in their everyday lives. The Watchdog approach to media ownership can also lead to parroting of teacher values, as savvy students who regularly take pleasure in mass media and popular culture figure out the “correct” answers in lessons without taking them to heart.