Port Dickinson, Malaysia, July, 6th, 2018 (SIGNIS Malaysia).  There is an urgent need to "media-educate" the young from the modern plagues of fake news, doctored images and cyber-crimes through media education programmes. This was echoed during a “Wassup Media” camp for Form 4 students on 8-10 June 2018 at the CYC centre in Port Dickson, Malaysia.  

Basic questions, such as, What is the purpose of media?, Who creates media content?, Who influences changes in society? were some of the questions posed to teenagers in the customised Wassup media programme.

Two media education programmes were organised by SIGNIS Malaysia in collaboration with St. Joseph’s Church, Sentul, for about fifty catechism students aged between 13-16 years. Facilitators began by drawing from participants their experiences of media and media-related lifestyle. Many said that media’s role was to inform and entertain, and a few shared that media “influences us” to some extent.

Social communications expert Sir Augustine Loorthusamy stressed on how values are distorted in a "media-mediated society." "Constant exposure to media, new technologies and social networks has led to a worldview characterised by conspicuous consumption, which tells you to buy, buy and buy. Narcissism – like self-love and selfies – and hedonism, which promotes a pursuit of pleasure: all these lead to unsustainable consumption resulting in a culture of death," he said.

Experienced counsellor and social worker Raymund Jagan spoke about the impact of social media from a psychological point of view. He highlighted the risks and threats in social media; he also shared how teen users can protect themselves from falling victim to the negative aspects of the excessive usage of social media.

Students had hands-on experience of the five key concepts of Media Literacy that enabled them to better understand the workings of the media in their local situation. A local journalist, also head of SIGNIS Malaysia, covered the fifth concept with an overview of the Malaysian media industry, its ownership and news priorities. “These tailor-made local media exercises are an excellent tool for conscientising young people to become aware of the subtle media influence that will eventually shape them,” said Lawrence John aka Eljay, vice president of SIGNIS World, who co-facilitated the concepts session.

“I used to be irresponsible and careless but after attending this camp, I started seeing a different perspective of the media. Also everything you do online has a consequence, either good or bad. Now I am more aware of the impact and influence of the media,” said Divina Ng Wai Ching, catechism teacher and chaperon for the media camp.

The principles of Laudato Si (pope’s letter on Care for Our Common Home) were integrated into the Wassup programme to enable an action plan for students to concretely implement environmental concerns by changing their “mindset” of a sustainable future. For a kick start, participants cleaned the beach by collecting garbage and disposing of them properly.

During the feedback session, students realised that they were “not as aware” as they thought they were on how media, if not used responsibly, could influence their perceptions and choices. When asked for feedback, many said that they would be "more cautious and critical" when using media, especially social media. Overall the students found the Wassup programme very valuable and felt it should be promoted for families and children.

At the closing Eucharistic celebration, Fr. George Packiasamy, parish priest of St. Joseph, highlighted the importance of having media education camps for catechism students. Adeline James, secretary of SIGNIS Malaysia and media education programme coordinator, said that SIGNIS Malaysia initiated "MediaHive", a space for young people to share their creative talents after being "media educated”. The first pilot programme was launched in April this year, through a one-day programme Wassup Media – Taking Control held for Forms 1 – 3 students in St. Joseph’s Church to create awareness and to educate on how to take control of their media consumption and their media environment. We thank St. Joseph’s Church for their cooperation in jointly organising the Media Camps.